This month, on the14th and 15th of September, ENIL participated in two webinars on inclusive education.
The first one was hosted by COFACE Families Europe, entitled “Back-to-school: Triggering a meaningful shift towards inclusive education”. The S.H.I.F.T. guide, focusing on different areas (Support, Human Rights, Independence, Families, and society Transition), was used as the starting point for discussion on this topic. The webinar provided space to compare different realities across Europe and to discuss recommendations with stakeholders representing civil society, trade unions, education ministries, the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education and the European Commission. You can read more about this webinar here.
The second webinar was entitled “Europe@School – Young people with disabilities” and hosted by the Young European Federalists (JEF). In this webinar, the focus was on the role of the European Union and how it can facilitate equal access to education, as guaranteed under Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. You can read more about this webinar here, and watch the Facebook live recording here.
During both webinars, a lot of attention was dedicated to Erasmus+ opportunities, as a means of facilitating change and promoting diversity and inclusion. Both for Erasmus student exchanges and opportunities through the European Solidarity Corps, which is part of the Erasmus+ network, additional budgets are available for access needs for disabled people. The dangers and benefits of moving exchange experiences online were also discussed. There is a possibility for online exchange opportunities, which can be a good tool for those who cannot or choose not to travel abroad, however this option is sometimes branded as easier for disabled people. If disabled people are pushed towards doing Erasmus online, remotely, this will not serve inclusion purposes, but could instead lead to further segregation and isolation. When it comes to additional expenses for access needs, budgeting is difficult at times. There is a lack of information online about how these funds can be accessed and the added complication of how disabled people can access social services and benefits when moving abroad.
In line with this topic, on 24th September, ENIL participated in the European Disability Forum (EDF) webinar on the European Solidarity Corps, with Frank Sioen being one of the speakers and Kamil Goungor being the moderator. During this webinar, it was discussed what the new programme will bring, with a focus on disabilities and how the programme can support young disabled people. Two young disabled volunteers and two hosting organisations (including ENIL) shared their experiences, speaking about their challenges and how these were overcome, and the benefit they received from these experiences. Questions of reasonable accommodation, as well as the link between deinstitutionalisation strategies, inclusion and EU-funded volunteering opportunities in segregated settings were raised with an expert from the European Commission, hopefully leading to further discussion.