Disability Focus Day – Serve the City: Saturday 20th October 2012

On Saturday 20th October, WYA Europe went to show its support for the dignity of the disabled person at a Disability Focus Day, lead and organized by the volunteer movement, Serve the City Brussels. Agnes King, Director of Operations, and Fiona Pitt, Intern at the Europe office, attended the day to participate in workshops and discussions.

The Disability Focus Day aimed to encourage a change of perspectives towards disabilities. In society, it was concluded that attitudes towards disabilities are still overwhelmingly negative, and the Focus Day sought to help foster positive attitudes towards disability.

The day started with a discussion lead by a member of the Ligue Handisport Francophone, which works to promote Paralympic sport in Belgium. Two main ideas were presented: sport is positive, and is deserved by all people, disabled or not, and at all levels; and that through the medium of sport, people who might otherwise be trapped at home due to their disability are given the chance to show their humanity.

The second talk was thoroughly enjoyed by all participants! Two young wheelchair users allowed participants to question them about how they think the public see them. Both young people showed a great deal of positive attitude and charisma. One young lady raised a great deal of debate by saying that actually the best way to help her was not to help at all! What really mattered to her was to treat her the same as everyone else, create good friendships and encourage her to be able to do things for herself. 

The last workshop was a blindfold game where members were set the task of sorting objects as a team and finding those missing from the set. Participants were made to reflect on the way abled-sighted people describe things, and how we use these descriptions to engage with our blind friends. When we use colours or descriptions of the type “moon-shaped”, we often forget it may be difficult for others to appreciate what this really means!

The feedback session at the end of the day was thorough and thought-provoking. Participants concluded that we should not see our disabled friends as “disabled”, but rather simply “differently-abled”. If we consider our own abilities and disabilities, there are many things that we can and can’t do – just because the majority of us can walk and use our five senses, we are all unique in the fact that some of us can play the piano while others can’t, and some can play football well and others can’t. Emphasis should be placed on what individuals can achieve – not what they can’t; and all human persons should be allowed to fulfil their potential.

For more information about Serve the City in Belgium and its events, please visit:

http://www.servethecity.be/