Visual impairment is an invisible disability. It is hard to talk about it as it is a borderline disability. It is not common to have people from all over Europe to share their experiences and daily life problems. If self-help groups exist, they are locally based, while international congresses on visual loss are mostly medical and research oriented. Therefore we strived to discuss the challenges of visual impairment within the context of the Social Model of Disability, which understands social inclusion and disability as a human rights issue contrary to the purely medical approach that focuses on cure only. When we talk about visual impairment we can refer to disabilities that are including one or more sight problems. These could be dark blindness, light intolerance, strong dazzling or a narrow visual field, which in some cases is reduced to a dot. Sight defects such as myopia, astigmatism, presbyopia or walleye are generally not included in the definition of visual impairment, but many partially sighted people have also one or more of these defects. The causes of visual impairments are numerous, from aging to genetic to accidents and in the majority of the cases the loss is irreversible, often degenerative and in most of the cases incurable. As long as there is no cure for this disability it is necessary to learn to live with it, accept it, be more self-aware. Hence one of the main goals of the workshop was to collect and discuss examples, tools and ideas for a better self-confidence and empowerment for people with visual impairments. At the same time we wanted participants to get to know self-help structures on a national and European level. We asked them to present organizations working in this field in their home countries and presented the practices of active participation by youth with disabilities on the European level. Finally, another innovation in the Workshop was that educational methods were adapted especially for visually impaired people and their needs, thus making it more inclusive for them than mainstream educational workshops. These methods were documented and will be used later in follow-up activities.
The main goal of the Workshop was to contribute on different levels (personal exchange, exploration of Berlin, use of creative methods) to the mobility of 16 partially sighted people from all over Europe.
The concrete objectives were to:
● raise the self-confidence of the participants in relation to their disability
● transfer knowledge to participants on how to increase their mobility in everyday life
● let the participants know about the situation for visually impaired people in other European countries
● to learn new creative problem solving methods
● to find out about self-help structures on a national and European leve
Lifelong Learning and Grundtvig Programme
As the flagship European Funding programme in the field of education and training, the Lifelong Learning Programme (LLP) enables individuals at all stages of their lives to pursue stimulating learning opportunities across Europe. It is an umbrella programme integrating various educational and training initiatives. LLP is divided in four sectorial sub programmes and four so called ‘transversal’ programmes. The Grundtvig programme is one of the four subprogrammes. Its objectives are to:
● increase the number of people in adult education to 25 000 by 2013, and improve the quality of their experience, whether at home or abroad
● improve conditions for mobility so that at least 7 000 people per year by 2013 can benefit from adult education abroad; ● improve the quality and amount of co-operation between adult education organisations;
● develop innovative adult education and management practices, and encourage widespread implementation;
● ensure that people on the margins of society have access to adult education, especially older people and those who left education without basic qualifications;
● support innovative ICT-based educational content, services and practices. Grundtvig Workshops bring together individuals or small groups of learners from different European countries for an innovative multinational learning experience relevant for their personal development and learning needs, in which learners are also encouraged to share their competences and insights actively with others.