Digital Accessibility

Accessibility – supporting learners with needs in a digital world

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Digitalisation has been on the rise for several years now. It has become an even more present cross-sectional topic in light of recent events. In the work with trainees who have special educational needs in the area of learning, the acquisition of digital competences is a major task for the pedagogical staff. At the same time, the development of social and personal competences is essential for integration in the labour market.

The digital world is not yet designed to be barrier-free, but nevertheless it plays a predominant role in everyday life. We find ourselves as a cooperation partnership in a field of tension that we want to bridge. In a joint exchange of partners from Germany (KIDS & CO and Konrad-Zuse-Schule Berlin), Greece (IFF and 2EPAL Alexandroupoli), Sweden (Activa and Gymnasiesärskolan Örebro Kommun) and Cyprus (Learning Center for Youth) we will develop a concept on how teachers can act in this field of tension. The project results will also support both teachers and learners in their soft skills.

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The project meeting in March 2024 took us to Cyprus, a country with a rich and diverse culture. Our partner organisation LC Youth in Limassol put together a great programme with educational content for the participants who travelled there.

On the first day, after LC Youth introduced us to their organisation and explained their work with informative presentations, we were able to meet a few young people from their projects. They skilfully shared their experiences with the team and other project participants - even in English. They proudly spoke about highlights of their vocational training activities on their way into professional life as well as the fun times they are having on excursions with the LC Youth team.

We then discussed the status of the project in a plenary session and prepared the upcoming train-the-trainer session. To this end, the Greek partner gave us input on NLP methods, which we applied directly. With this methodology in mind, future learning units from the previously shared best practice examples could be enriched. This is also where the inclusion of media and digital education can take place, which is needed to prepare our respective target groups for working life in the best possible way.

On the second day, we visited a school with a vocational orientation programme. It was modern and spacious, and we were introduced to it by the students there. A lunch prepared for our group by their catering department was expertly served and tasted great. This visit gave us a first-hand insight into everyday (professional) school life. We then had the opportunity to see a residential project for people with autism, managed by LC Youth. This project ensures that the residents receive care and support tailored to their needs. It was very impressive and we felt a sense of gratitude for all the effort taken.

After returning to the organisation, we discussed plans for the upcoming meetings and took another step towards our project goal. We are learning from and with each other, which opens up room for design possibilities in our own educational work.

The third transnational meeting took place in Alexandroupolis (Greece). This time it was about sharing the respective best practice examples from the partner countries for the integration of young people into the labour market:

For this purpose, we learned about the hero's journey from the NLP method from the Greek project partner "International Forum Faros". "2 EPAL" presented their methods for digital participation of the students. KIDS & CO gave an insight into two successful ways into working life: the projects Perspektivwerkstatt and MAP Europa with a 2-month internship abroad. The Konrad Zuse School spoke about its student company and other activating integration measures. "LC Youth" from Cyprus presented many creative project ideas that promote social interaction. "Stiftelsen Activa" (Sweden) showed their successful variant of Supported Mobility, which includes a one-month internship abroad. Finally, "Virginska Gymnasiet" spoke about the use of symbols to facilitate communication with young people with special needs.

Once again, these were exciting insights and perspectives that further deepened the project partnership and the know-how of its actors. Now the agenda is to develop from these results new materials for pedagogical work!

The project meeting in April 2023 took place in Örebro/Sweden and focused on the evaluation of the interviews with the focus groups: What are the experiences of the young people in the different countries regarding "digital accessibility of life and work"? Do they feel well integrated by the measures taken by the educational institutions? For this purpose, all partners prepared a presentation of their surveys with participants and staff.

We also defined some terms, especially the complex term "accessibility", in order to establish a uniform language. What wording is used for the target group, also with regard to inclusive and equitable language? This and more was lively discussed in groups.

In order to also experience the culture of the host country during the exchange, our project partner Activa organized a guided tour of Örebro Castle, a medieval fortress complex. All in all we had a productive time and great opportunities to get to know better the work as well as customs of the partner countries.

Until the next project meeting, which will take place in Alexandroupoli/Greece, all partners will compile the status quo of the previously defined "accessibility" in the respective country. Each country will present a best practice example of successful integration. Furthermore we will start working on the upcoming teacher’s and training exercises. With that we have another exciting exchange ahead of us, in which we will continue to advance the project goals.

A first important milestone of the project took place when we carried out interviews on the topic of "accessibility". It was important for us to let the young people and professionals have their say at the start of the project. The aim was, in addition to identifying current needs, to identify best practices and approaches in the work of both target groups.

The interviews brought interesting aspects for further work. The young people aged between 17 and 30 gave very differentiated answers as to what they understood by "participation". For example, they stated that for them participation means having "access to information".

The survey of professionals also brought up interesting aspects. Here, the digital equipment in the countries plays a big role. Even if many practically oriented projects are combined with digital aspects, there is still a need for further development in order to meet the needs of the target group.

The first transnational meeting took place in Berlin from 12 to 16 September 2022. In addition to getting to know each other personally, the main focus was on the countries' education systems. How do the education systems in Sweden, Cyprus and Greece work and what is different from the German one? The results will be summarized in our project guide, which we are going to create together.


Media presence of the project partners

International Forum Faros

Learning Center for Youth (LC youth)

Project Interview on Greek TV