Professionals of the EDUC Alliance gathered in Pécs on 16-17 January at the University of Pécs engaged in the inclusion of people living with disabilities as researchers, educators, advocators, and service providers. The two-day conference titled Disabilities and Abilities Framed by Context also provided an opportunity to assemble a panel of experts who will encourage dialogue by presenting their unique perspectives, identifying common ground and further opportunities for collaboration.
The conference organized by the University of Pécs as part of the EDUC-SHARE project WP 1 also touched on issues related to the social construction of disabilities and the provision of equal opportunities. Experts from our partner universities in Norway, the Czech Republic, France and Italy also attended the professional discussion. First, Csaba Magdali, head of the UP Support Service, social expert and disability coordinator, welcomed the assembled representatives of the partner universities. "One of the signs of development of civilisation is how a given society treats its most vulnerable members, people with disabilities" – emphasized Csaba Magdali in his opening speech, opening the floor to collaboration, networking and valuable discussion from theoretical to practical aspects of the focal topic of disability.
"My research highlights that through communication and sharing stories, we can make sense of events in our lives."
Said Line Joranger, a professor at the University of South-Eastern Norway. In her presentation, she focused on how to create a situation that can give people with disabilities an opportunity to share their stories. "The essence of this would be to present and understand their everyday lives, for example through the tools of art," added Line Joranger from Norway.
The chair of the meeting, Sára Bigazzi, argued that inclusivity would benefit both normative and marginalized societies:
"The skills of normative society, such as empathy, mentalization, flexibility, and coping strategies, would be broadened."
In her presentation, she explored the concept of disability, for example from the perspective of ageing societies. Among other things, we can see the group lagging behind in the development of technology. She also introduced examples, such as "Dialogue in the Dark", where sighted people have to navigate in a dark room, and in this situation there is an opportunity to experience being disadvantaged in vision. Sara Bigazzi also emphasized the need to change the narrative and the importance of trust in the community.
"Diversity alone does not guarantee acceptance, inclusion and collaborative working practices"
highlighted Erika Csovcsics, assistant lecturer at the Institute of Educational Sciences, Faculty of Humanities, University of Pécs, adding: "teacher training should provide students the opportunity to experience an inclusive attitude, which they will be able to multiply many times after their graduation." Teachers must lead by example because they are the key players. She also spoke about the transformation of education and the importance of soft skills.
The history of disability in the twentieth century, as well as the constant change of terminology and designations, was presented by Donatella Rita Petretto from the Department of Education, Philosophy and Psychology of the University of Cagliari in Italy, who examined equal opportunities from a health perspective.
"Inclusivity requires a very complex approach, because if you think about telemedicine, e-health, for example, it may seem that people with disabilities can benefit from it, but there is also the question of the digital divide. Surely there will be people who either cannot handle digital assets well or do not have access to them"
said Donatella Rita Petretto. The discourse continued in several interesting and important directions within the framework of the conference, and an abstract volume was also published about the presentations.
Written by: Mariann Tóth, UnivPécs
Photos by: Szabolcs Csortos, UnivPécs