Step In For Inclusion; increasing participation & volunteering of young people with disabilities

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The international activity “Step In For Inclusion”, organised by ENGSO Youth, took place on 6-9 July 2021 in Lisbon, Portugal. 


30 young people from all over Europe gathered to tackle the issue of exclusion of youngsters with disabilities in sport.  The event was funded by Council of Europe through the European Youth Foundation. 


They joined our “Step In For Inclusion” training course  which has been designed, by ENGSO Youth, with an idea to increase the participation of young people with disabilities in sports and to raise awareness of their able-bodied peers on the importance of running adapted sport activities and involve them in the sports volunteering. 


The idea was based on the recognition of sports and physical activity as beneficial tools for health, but also as a strong instrument for promoting social inclusion. “Step In For Inclusion” event provided participants with the necessary knowledge about the everyday challenges of youngsters with disabilities and how they can be involved into society through sport and sports volunteering. 


Besides general awareness-raising, participants also engaged in collaborative work with a goal of developing a toolkit targeting organizations from the European youth and sport sectors and individuals (e.g. youth leaders, sport coaches and NGO staff) who want to harness the potential of sport for social inclusion of youngsters with disabilities.


Recap of Step In For Inclusion


Day one revolved around team building activities and getting to know each other. After building bridges and testing inclusivity of the structures, participants started to discuss how sport can contribute to social inclusion. The main activity – the Inclusion Lab: sport’s values versus social exclusion – included important discussions, such as difference between inclusion and integration, sport’s contribution in fighting social exclusion, intervention to the society structures via different sport policies and good practices from national countries. We concluded the introduction day with an outdoor activity – volleyball which we adapted according to the TREE methodology and played it with blankets, and finalised the day with the sitting volleyball challenge. 


Moreover, we enjoyed an intercultural picnic in the park, sharing a bit of our cultural experiences together. 


Sharing session on challenges and opportunities, related to disabilities, and introduction to the Council of Europe’s manual and work on human rights education with young people were the first two activities of the second day. Laura and Gena, ENGSO Youth Young Delegates, lead a session about the Council of Europe Manuals, sharing practical tips and tricks on how to adapt existing activities to the different environment and make sure they are inclusive. Portuguese Federation for people with disabilities joined our sessions and gave an insight about the sport activities hosted in Portugal. Have you ever heard about Polybat? This is one of the new sport activities, which are inclusive and can be played by everyone.  The morning activities were followed by the session in Joao Rocha Pavillion, where we were introduced and challenged to play Goalball and Boccia. Stepping out of the comfort zone and experiencing other senses, such as listening and touching the zone in order to be able to play the games was a remarkable experience for all of us. 


Day three covered the topics of adapting sport games and inclusive volunteering. Best practice examples were shared by Tobias from Special Olympics Europe Eurasia and Special athletes from Lithuania – Sandra, Erikas and Ernestas. Athletes lead warm up activities and shared their insights about the need to make the activities inclusive even if you do not speak the same language by using clapping and coordination with signs. This session also included collaborating work on the toolkit which will offer instruction and ideas on how to adapt sport activities to become more inclusive. 


“We are all the same, so don’t be afraid to ask’’, stated Rita, who was kind to share her personal story and difficulties she faced while moving around with the wheelchair. After sharing the experiences, the development of the inclusive toolkit was the main topic of day four. Participants also discuss the legacy of the event and the next steps. 


We would like to express sincere thanks to the participants who joined us and helped us raise awareness on the importance of inclusion in sport. Especially, Portuguese Sport Confederation for all the support to allow us to ensure the safety regulations during the international activity.  


The international activity was supported by the Council of Europe through European Youth Foundation.


Photography: Ricardo Baptista

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