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In the last two weeks Bulgarian children from the German school “Erich Kaеstner” in Sofia have been taking part in the #DrawDisability global campaign. The head teacher, Mr. Prokop Pavlov, was one of the first in Sofia who immediately responded to the idea and expressed his willingness for the whole school to participate in the project. The implementation of the task was entrusted to Lyudmila Velichkova, an art teacher. In my first meeting with her, she expressed great enthusiasm and shared her conviction that the issue of the inclusion of people with disabilities in society is extremely important and will provoke the children’s interest.
I was invited to take part in the workshop with two groups of sixth graders. We showed the children photos of children with different disabilities, which they unmistakably recognized – including autism, dyslexia, Down syndrome. These provided a basis for the discussion about invisible disabilities. The teacher explained to the children that “disability is not a health problem, but a problem of society. Society should help to enable people with disabilities to develop and it is important for their problems to be discussed, to be overcome.” I talked to them about the role of their participation in the campaign, stressing the fact that their voice, their point of view is very valuable and can teach adults how to make the right decisions concerning persons with disabilities. I saw their eyes lighten up at the idea that their viewpoint is important.
Disability is not a health problem, but a problem of society.
These 6th-graders demonstrated exceptional awareness of the issue of disability. They quoted examples of world-famous figures such as Andrea Bocelli, Stephen Hawking, Jennifer Aniston (the latter having dyslexia). They shared the ideas that persons with disabilities are an integral part of society, which should not be isolated, that they should be helped and paid attention to, that they should never be abandoned.
Children had the opportunity to experience what it is like to have visual impairments, going around the office with a blindfold over their eyes, guided by their classmates. “I feel strange, as if I am nowhere,” “It is horrible”, “It is scary” were some of the comments of the sixth graders. Earlier, I second grader had said “It is as if there was an earthquake”.
The sixth graders then started to develop a plan for their drawings, the 40-minute class being insufficient for both discussion and drawing.
They drew some sketches and noted down their ideas to continue working on them next week. “It is a very serious topic, I have to think seriously about it”, a pupil told me.
Their classmates from the lower classes have almost completed their drawings, a few final touches and they will be sent to the #DrawDisabilty Gallery for everyone around the world to think about and admire.
[Photos @ GLOBI – Global Observatory for Inclusion]
Blagovesta Troeva works at the Department of English at New Bulgarian University, Sofia. She obtained her first Master’s degree in British and American Studies at Sofia University, Bulgaria. While her career develops in the field of foreign language teaching, she also has profound interests in human rights, anti-discrimination, inclusion and learning difficulties. She has completed the Erasmus Mundus Special and Inclusive Education – a joined Master’s programme of the University of Roehampton, London, Oslo University, and Charles University, Prague.