The first day of the programme was about getting to know each other, establishing the ground rules,outlining the programme for the week, putting down our fears, expectations and reasons to participate inthe workshop. In the last session of the day we started exploring our experiencies on the theme in smallgroups. We completed the day by meeting in smaller groups to reflect on the day’s events and activitiestogether with a facilitator.
2.WHAT DID WE DO AND WHY?
2.1. First session
The facilitators introduced themselves, their background and their role in the project. The first getting to know each other activity was to place ourselves in the seminar room in the location of our home country on an imaginary map of Europe in the room. The second activity further reinforced understanding of each other and where we come from. Dario presented the aims and objectives of the week’s workshop. In his own introduction he pointed out that as we have gathered together for this week’s work we shouldn’t worry about the level of our vision rather he said “it is not necessary to see with the eyes only but also withthe heart”. Other aims we found important were increasing the personal mobility of visually impaired people all around Europe through creative ideas and to find best practices in our individual countries to share with others.
2.2. Second session
The session after our morning coffee break began with our guest speaker from Pro Retina Association. She told us about her 30 years of experience working to help visually impaired people to stand up for their rights. We also got the opportunity to engage ourselves by asking questions. She offered us good insights to the special needs of partially sighted people in relation to the needs of the blind. We then proceeded to examine our own needs, expectations and fears for this coming week. We did this by discussing in pairs and small groups and portraying the results in a big chart (see picture below).
2.3. Third session
After lunch we took a photograph of the group in the garden. Then Olga presented the week’s programme in more detail and we proceeded to establish guidelines for us to work as group. These included clear communication and openness, a buddy system to make sure nobody is left behind, taking responsibility of one’s actions and one’s property, respecting each other and our cultures and being on time. Karina facilitated the collection of guidelines. Then Dario presented two tools to use during the workshop: flipcharts labelled as “parking lot” and “Did you know?” where we can leave topics for further discussion or share ideas or information when an opportunity arises.
2.4. Fourth session
In the last session we were divided into three group to discuss our personal experiences about our vision. In our small groups we covered topics such as public transport, the availability of visual aids and assistance by the governments and organizations, employment and mobility. The groups produced short sketches based on their conversation and then presented them to all the participants. The day was wrapped in small reflection groups where we covered both practical issues and our feelings on the day.
The time spent on team building and getting to know each other resulted in the group establishing a safe space and a relaxed dynamic within the group. The guest speaker encouraged to think about the opportunities of moving forward as a younger generation of visually impaired people in Europe and question us to think about the future. The latter part of the day enabled us to share in a more in depth way with each other. We found out that most of our own challenges are shared with the others regardless where we are from. They reinforced the bond we had made earlier in the day with each other. The reflection groups made us feel that our concerns are heard and our opinions are appreciated.
Written by Tytti, Rosemary and Rosio Alejandra