Preparing a Disability Project

As in all youth projects, it is vital to prepare the project and the people together with the young people themselves. Below you will find some concrete suggestions on how to start working both with persons with a disability and without a disability and on how to bring them together.

Starting from the young people's needs

It is clear that the young people are the central beneficiaries in mixed-ability projects. Even though you might like an organisational challenge as a youth worker, an international youth project is primarily built up around the young people and their wishes, aspirations, needs,... Including the young people from the start in the development of 'their' project, is vital to provide tailor-made youth work for your 'clients' - who are the reason of your existence as a youth worker.

Real Inclusion... or tokenism

If your aim is to set up a real 'inclusive' youth project, then the young people (with or without a disability) should be at the centre of the project and truly included in the development, implementation and follow-up of the project or activities - with of course some help and coaching from a youth worker here and there! One thing is sure - if you don't give space to the young people (whatever abilities they have) they will not be inclined to take any space nor responsibility.

When going abroad it is important to think through your project from the young people's point of view and maybe a bit more from the point of view of your participants (or youth workers) with special needs. They might have some concerns that differ from those of people without a disability.

We could categorise young people's needs in several categories. These lists are intended to start you on a thought process, without necessarily covering all situations.

Practical & Technical Needs

This category is related to the infrastructure and assistive equipment needed for the persons with a disability

  • Accessibility of the venue (bedrooms, bathrooms, toilets, working rooms, restaurants, parking,...) - vertical and horizontal mobility
  • Working methods - audio loops, braille reader, flipcharts at an accessible height,...
  • Transport- accessibility of (public) transport, variety of indications of where you are, where to get off, ramps, braille, vocal & visual announcements, alternatives,...
  • Outings in the city - accessibility, obstacles, (adapted) maps or indicators, always move in couples/group, accessible public toilets,...
  • Free time and relaxation - a space to switch off when tired, to rest or relax,...
  • Daily life -appropriate assistive equipment for eating, washing, sleeping,...
  • Are there companies that can hire/sell/repair assistive equipment (wheelchairs, hoists, walking aids, hearing aids, special glasses, etc) when you need it

Take the most demanding requirement as minimum standard e.g. the largest wheelchair, the slowest walker or eater, the person with the least vision,...). This way you are sure to leave nobody behind.

See also the checklists in Creating activities for mixed-ability groups

Individual & Personal Needs

This category is related to the individual persons with a disability in relation to their abilities.

  • The persons' performance - can the participants stay (sleep, eat, wash) alone or do they need assistance?
  • Special needs of the participants - care, medicine, material, food,...
  • Variation in methods to keep up concentration - intellectual, practical, creative, verbal,...
  • Pace of the programme, moments of rest, possibility to take some time out,...

The best way to find out the answers to these questions is to ask the participants, their parents, personal assistant or doctor.

Emotional & Social Needs

This category is related to the individuals and their feelings, as well as those of the whole group

  • Work on people's self-esteem and sense of achievement - sometimes young people with a disability don't even think that they could ever go on an international project
  • Making everybody in the group feel comfortable - spend enough time for group building and get to know each other, begin with relatively few activities based on involvement and gradually proceed to more and more challenging activities, create trust and friendship between peers
  • Deal with frustrations or dissatisfaction - foresee moments of feedback and evaluation (individual, in smaller groups, in national groups, before-during-after,...)
  • Take time for fun and feel-good moments - can either be during free time or as an incorporated part of the programme
  • Give enough free time - not only in the group but also alone (to recover from the intense group life)
  • Foresee a life-line to the home front - create the possibility to speak/mail parents, friends, people back home

The emotional needs within the national group can already be dealt with a lot during the preparation

Health & Medical Needs

These are all the needs related to the medical condition of all participants, and in particular to the people with a disability

  • What particular medication do the young people and youth worker need - collect information about their usage, take extra in case of loss, find out the name of the active component (because brands are different in different countries)
  • What type of personal care items do the people on the project need (e.g. adapted toiletries, nappies, etc) - can you buy more of them abroad when you run out of them?
  • Keep the numbers and addresses of local doctor/nearest hospital/emergency care handy
  • Make a list of contact numbers of people that know the people's special needs and how to deal with them - parents, guardians, doctor at home
  • Do (any of) the youth workers have First Aid (recently) or should you have a nurse with you?
Safety & Legal Needs

These are all the needs of the young people and there parents vis-à-vis the youth organisation and youth workers that are taking the young people abroad

  • Get appropriate insurance - health insurance for the country you are going to, travel insurance for luggage & expensive assistive equipment, repatriation in case of emergency
  • Clarify your role and liability as a youth worker towards the young people you work with - get parental consent, inform them about the programme of activities, ask them for agreement, allow opting-out for specific parts of the programme,...
  • Check rules & regulations for youth work both in your country and abroad - minimum requirements, special provisions when working with mixed-ability groups,...
  • Does your programme have any activities for which you need a qualification/ brevet/ authorisation - mountaineering, life-guard,...
  • Have your action plan ready in case something goes wrong - do a proper risk assessment and have a crisis management strategy ready

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  • Inclusion: access to information!Inclusion: access to information!
  • pic grouppic group


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