Do not make the obstacle course
for part 4 too long. 2-3 minutes is sufficient, especially if
you only have two or three wheelchairs, because people will have
to wait and they may get bored. You can try to borrow wheelchairs
from a local hospital or organisation providing support for people
temporarily in need of wheelchairs. Alternatively, you will have
to improvise to give the participants physical disabilities. For
example, by making people wear enormous rubber boots on the wrong
How you run this activity will depend very much on the group.
Make sure that everyone realises that they are going to go through
different "simulations of reality" during which they
will have the opportunity to experiment with their feelings and
reactions to what it is like to be disabled. Explain that the
purpose is not to make fun of anyone, or to cause undue stress
or embarrassment. They should act "naturally", and not
overdo things. Reassure people that at certain moments they may
feel awkward and insecure, but that nothing harmful or dangerous
will happen to them.
If you do not have time to do all the "simulations of reality",
then do one or two. The experience of being blindfolded is perhaps
the most personally challenging and touching of the experiences
presented in this activity. Therefore, if you have to choose one
part, it is recommended that you choose this one. Let the participants
swap over so that both have the experience of disability. Remember,
in this case to create a second set of objects for identification.
This activity is serious, but you should expect many funny situations.
Let it be so. Feel compelled to intervene or comment only if people
are doing something unsafe or making comments which ridicule people
with disabilities. You may also wish to address this in the evaluation
and debriefing with questions such as: when do people make fun
of those with disabilities? Who does it and why? When is it all
right to make jokes about people's disabilities? How does one
judge the borderline between good humour and offence?
You may simulate many other kinds of disabilities, including
less visible ones, such as learning disabilities or language difficulties,
according to what is closest to your group's reality. One possibility
is to simulate situations of disability due to age; this may contribute
to raising young people's awareness towards older people and the
(lack of) conditions for a life in dignity.
Suggestions for follow up
If you are working with children, you may like to look at Article
23 of the CRC, which states that disabled children have the right
to special care, education and training that will help them to
enjoy a full and decent life. You could ask the groups to find
out about people in their own social environment (including family)
who suffer from some kind of disability. They could further investigate
what services and provisions those people have access to. Are
there any children with disabilities in the youth group or association
or in school? Can they do the same as everyone else? If not, why
If you want to discuss how to integrate physically disabled
young people into a youth club, then a good starting point is
one of the case studies in Domino, see section 8.6
You could also follow-up this activity about disability by getting
people to think of the positive associations they have with disabled
people. Do a couple of rounds of "The
associations game" in part A of the all
different all equal education pack.
If the group would like to look at how to respond to "everyday"
problems of discrimination of another form - discrimination on
the grounds of race, they could do the activity "Responding
Ideas for action
The group may wish to identify a vulnerable group and decide
what they can/should do to support them. Consult the section of
the manual on "taking action" for guidance and ideas.
It is important to work together with organisations that work
with the disabled and to start from the needs of the disabled,
as defined and identified by the disabled themselves.
The level of care and safeguarding of rights of the disabled
varies greatly from country to country, ostensibly for economic
reasons but in reality for reasons that have probably more to
do with taking equality and social solidarity seriously than with
anything else. For example, hearing aids may or may not be paid
for by social security. There may or may not be special provisions
for extra telecommunications equipment for deaf people and if
someone needs an electric wheelchair, then sometimes the community
or the state pays for it.
Information about discrimination against people with disabilities
can be found in the background information on discrimination
and xenophobia. Information about the Paralympic Games can
be found in the background information
on sports and human rights.