Urals conference on employment of people with disabilities
International conference on the employment of people with disabilities held in the Urals
A conference on “Organising daytime employment for people with disabilities: Problems and solutions” was held on 21 March at the Inclusive Cultural Centre in the village of Verkh-Neyvinsky, supported by the Ural State Pedagogical University and the Blagoe Delo CSO.
“If you heard that an international conference was to take place in a small village in the Urals your initial reaction would be one of amazement! However, this is not the first event organised by the Pedagogical University and Blagoe Delo that has brought together participants from different countries and Russian regions”, say the organisers.
One hundred social sector experts from Moscow and Sverdlovsk oblasts attended the conference. Zhang Wei from the Chinese People’s Republic and Deputy Director of the Institute of Languages of Central and Eastern Europe, spoke about what is being done for students with disabilities in China. Another 286 participants joined the meeting online from Kyrgyzstan, Armenia and 14 Russian regions.
In his opening address, Evgeny Shapovalov, First Deputy Minister of Social Policy for the Sverdlovsk oblast (which is one of the pilot areas involved in organising the lives of people with disabilities), stated that his oblast was devoting considerable effort to promoting the employment prospects for this social group.
Conference speakers tried to cover employment issues from different perspectives, discussing what culture and training had to offer and what experience has already been acquired by State social institutions and CSOs.
Speakers from the University talked about what a professional who supports disabled people in the employment process should know and can achieve. There is often a gap between theory and practice in the training of specialists. According to Yulia Galaguzova, professor at the Ural State Pedagogical University, reverse mentoring, which her University has introduced successfully, can help in addressing this imbalance. Students and tutors immerse themselves in the life of a social organisation for a day, participating in workshops and rehearsing joint creative performances in studios while disabled people act as mentors and tutors for them.
All the problems associated with employing people returning from war zones was an emotional topic at the conference. Zara Manukyan, head of the Mairi Centre in Armenia, spoke of the difficulties faced by those returning to civilian life. Specialists from the Centre help them adjust to their new surroundings and create job placements in the process. However, the main resource they have to offer is a sympathetic and accepting environment.
According to Lyudmila Darensky, a trainer of basic movement classes at the inclusive creative collective ZAgranyu, “The speakers’ presentations had everything: ideas, stories of endeavour, pathos and hope, as well as an ocean of information”. She came to a workshop on dance improvisation with her autistic daughter Sonya who discovered a world of music and dance and is now honing her skills at workshops and festivals.
Participants shared practical experiences in workshops: Lego building, working with plasticine, drawing, dance improvisation – creative activities that brought able-bodied and disabled people together.
A team from the Pervouralsk Innovative Cultural Centre demonstrated a foresight game “A case of kindness” during which participants were invited to look at working with volunteers through the eyes of an organiser, team leader and activist.
Another workshop was devoted to the use of plain language and the adaptation of cultural events for people with mental disabilities. Tutors from the Pedagogical University offered
specialists simple and effective tools to work on their professional weaknesses. The workshop also helped them to recognise their own strengths, identify ways in which their performance could be improved and devise strategies that help them to enhance their skill set.
During a tour of Blagoe Delo’s workshops, participants saw how the work was organised, convinced that people with disabilities have a lot to contribute.
“I didn’t get everything right at first either but then realised that it takes strength and definitely love”, said Dmitry Batanin who was taking part in a carpentry workshop.
Such was the mood of the participants as they left the conference, having found the practical sessions very useful, impressed by the level of scientific expertise on show and by the feelings of empathy among those who attended.