Me Alla Matia NPO was recently delighted to accept the invitation of FIT Europe, which represents around 75 translation and interpreting associations across Europe, to participate in its workshop on the 3rd of last March. It was hosted in Brussels, along with keynote speakers, who joined online from all over Europe.
The event, co-organized with the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Translation and GALA (Globalization and Localization Association), aimed to renew the appeal of Translation and Interpreting Professions to young people.
The blind lawyer and President of our social enterprise, Evangelos Avgoulas, informed the participants about good inclusive practices and the action of our social enterprise in the context of the brainstorming aspects of the event.
Here follows the whole speech of Mr. Avgoulas:
Good morning dear people,
I would first like to thank the organizers for the honorable invitation. I am Vaggelis Avgoulas, and thirty-four years ago, I was born blind. Today, against the odds, one might say, I work as a lawyer, among many other things, maintaining my own law office in Athens. At the same time, I was elected to the Board of Directors of the Athens Bar Association, I am a member of the social policy committee of the Central Union of Municipalities of Greece and, for over ten years, I have been elected to the management of various associations of disabled people in Greece and abroad. As a student, I was educated between sighted children, not in a special school, but following a program to integrate blind students into a typical class. Since then, in Greece, we, unfortunately, have had some awful statistics, for which I have felt for so many years that something must be done.
Today in Greece, 7 out of 10 disabled children do not manage to complete their compulsory education. This means that even though they want to go to school, they cannot because of objective restrictions such as the lack of specialized equipment, the absence of special education teachers in small towns and islands, etc. For this reason, five years ago, some young, disabled experts, people with motor, visual, or hearing impairment, decided to establish the non-profit organization “Me Alla Matia” and work methodically for inclusion and accessibility in our country. I was one of them.
NPO “Me Alla Matia” was founded in 2018. It was implemented as an afterthought of the fully accessible social news portal meallamatia.gr, a project we launched over a decade ago. “Me Alla Matia” means “with a different point of view” in Greek, which is how we aspire to make the world see diversity. Our vision is to eliminate the underrepresentation of the disabled in the public sphere. Among others, we provide services of social welfare, counseling support, and social and professional integration of people belonging to vulnerable groups. Our team also implements school, corporate, cultural, and municipal programs aspiring to acquaint society with the concepts of disability, inclusion, and accessibility.
Today, I am honored to present you with the program we implement in schools to raise awareness of disability among the most hopeful part of our societies, our youth.
In this program, with the name “Des Ti Zoi Me Alla Matia” (meaning “see life with different eyes”), our disabled partners coordinate a free dialogue with students of all levels. Together, they approach the reality of disability and accessibility experientially, involving role-play exercises and demonstrations that provide great insight to the participants. Children and teenagers begin to realize the value of mutual acceptance and solidarity, growing into active citizens of tomorrow. The program meets the modern need to create an inclusive society, beginning already from the school years.
In this purely child-centered program, participants are encouraged to define the scope of the discussion, express their thoughts, share emotions and experiences, and become co-moderators. The speakers coordinate an audience that forms a specimen of social diversity, highlighting the uniqueness of each person, as well as their usefulness. This interaction and mutual understanding are the key factors leading to a shift of attitudes and mentality related to diversity, disability, and social exclusion. Since September 2017, around 350 free educational programs have been implemented in schools with over 26,000 students.
At the end of each school talk, we encourage young people to find our organization on social media and maintain contact with us. Using the platforms of TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, we intend to keep talking to them about inclusion in their own language. This is also where the vision of “Me Alla Matia” has successfully been encapsulated in our online campaign #SpeakUp. In this social media campaign, disabled people share aspects of their daily lives with the public, bridging the social gap maintained by ignorance. More than 140 videos later, the #SpeakUp campaign has evolved into two more video series following the same ambition: to continue breaking stereotypes around disability, focusing not only on the difficulties a disabled person may face but also on their skills and potential. Thus, a Q&A series that covers a wide range of impromptu, real-life questions and a cooking project with no vision involved now also constitute our online educative content.
Despite the pandemic, the last couple of years:
- our #SpeakUp campaign has garnered over 10 million views
- we visited more than 120 schools for free and educated over 6,300 students about disability
- we designed and coordinated over 80 customized training & consulting programs for companies, agencies, and municipalities, training over 8,000 employers and employees in accessibility and inclusion.
Thank you for your attention. I remain at your disposal for any questions you may have.