Equality Awareness Day in the DARe-Learning project
Equality Awareness Day in Paris, 29 January 2013
In France, the pivotal activity during the Equality Awareness Day was an anti-discrimination campaign aimed at making the academic community still more sensitive and open towards the needs of persons with disabilities.
The campaign was designed by Starting-Block, an organisation which collaborates with the Pierre and Marie Curie University of Paris and many other universities across France. Ireneusz Białek, Chief Coordinator at the Jagiellonian University Disability Support Service, as well as representatives of the UPMC and the company Thales spoke about the value of university education and the need for it to be oriented towards the needs of the labour market as finding employment is becoming increasingly difficult for persons with disabilities.
Cooperation between universities and socially minded businesses could support the process at least to some degree. During the debate, the DARe-Learning project was also discussed extensively as the focus of the French campaign was identical to one of the objectives of the project, that is drawing the public’s attention to the need to ensure the equal treatment of persons with disabilities. The discussants who put questions to the representatives of Pierre and Marie Curie University and the Jagiellonian University were keen to learn about the cultural differences concerning the perception of disability in Poland and France. It turned out that the main ones relate not so much to the way people think about disability (which due to the EU membership of both countries is becoming more and more similar) but rather the prosperity of the societies, and consequently France’s ability to earmark more funding for support offered to persons with disabilities, both in the process of education and on the labour market.
Equality Awareness Day in the Czech Republic, 1 May 2013
Equality Awareness Day at Charles University was held in the academic community during a student festival, a venue to exchange experiences in the adaptation of materials and educational aids. The festival also featured performances by various student musical acts, and there was a variety of students’ clubs and organisations promoting themselves at the stands where informational material about the DARe-Learning project was also distributed. The objective of the Equality Awareness Day at Charles University was the integration of the academic community. The Czechs are famous for their good sense of humour of which there was a healthy dose and so the participating students were wearing a wild array of most fancy clothes to show they were not afraid of diversity, but appreciate and treat it as a social value. This message aside, there was lots of fun involved.
Equality Awareness Day in Thessaloniki, 23 May 2013
Equality Awareness Day in Greece took the format of open lectures delivered by representatives of the DARe-Learning project, disability support staff from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and the organisers of the “Disabled Access Friendly” campaign. The results of the DARe-Learning project were intensively disseminated during the lectures as well as in front of the lecture hall. The crisis which has affected Greece in particular, has also left its trace, or a bite in this case, in academic centres. Because of the situation the means and opportunities for Greek universities, including Aristotle University, to support students with disabilities, not to mention the labour market, have been drastically reduced. Still, the Equality Awareness Day was a success in that it was in a way a voice of protest against the status quo and the discussants noted that the further perpetuation of the social exclusion of many groups, including those with disabilities, served no good as the society stagnated. The discussion finds it reflection in an article about persons with disabilities in Greece published in the third issue of "Equality News".
Equality Awareness Day at the Jagiellonian University, 7 June 2013
A the Jagiellonian University, the Equality Awareness Day organised by four academic centres (Prague, Paris, Thessaloniki and Krakow) as part of the DARe-Learning project was held on 7 June 2013 at the Collegium Maius Jagiellonian University Museum under the heading of “To Touch Culture”. The event was inspired by the idea of bringing various social groups together regardless of such differences as disability, age, beliefs or origin. The day abounded in interesting exhibitions showcasing various adaptations for blind persons. One of them was a two-dimensional show featuring works by Jacek Malczewski, a Polish symbolist painter from the turn of nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Apart from his five original canvasses from the “Water Nymphs” series their tactile adaptations were shown, made as linocuts by Lech Kolasiński, a graduate of Krakow’s Academy of Fine Arts. Thanks to such adjusted versions, blind visitors were able to become familiar with the works of art directly through touch. The presentation was accompanied by highly vivid descriptions by the art historian Róża Książek-Czerwińska, which are of fundamental importance for the appreciation of creative painting by persons with sight disabilities.
Also massively popular was an adaptation of Wisława Szymborska's Nobel Prize medal, executed by Lech Kolasiński for the To Touch Culture event as approved by the Nobel Committee of Stockholm. The medal adaptation was designed for tactile experience and it was through touch that both blind and sighted persons appreciated it. At Stuba Communis, a legendary professors’ canteen at the Collegium Maius, a meeting was held with the daughters of Julian Antonisz (Antoniszczak), a well-known director of experimental animated films, composer, designer and inventor. Sabina and Malwina Antoniszczak talked about their father’s creative work with passion, showcasing the most interesting of his preserved inventions, like the scanning “coarsegraph”, a device creating images for blind persons. They also presented replicas of exhibits from the “Film about (Office)…Work” such as a reusable slice of lemon or a “horsehair stamp” as well as some coarse graphics, images to be read with fingers and created by means of the scanning coarsegraph.
Students of Design at the Pedagogical University of Krakow also presented their adaptations. Guided by Malwina Antoniszczak, they developed a number of interesting objects, which can now be touched, like a Jagiellonian goblet and a coat of arms of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania clearly visible on it. The JU students of Geology, in turn, presented various rocks and minerals set in lava and explained the meanders of life enchanted in stone for millions of years in the unique university space of the Huta Courtyard.
The Equality Awareness Day at the Jagiellonian University culminated with an intimate evening concert by the world-famous jazz musician Tomasz Stańko played in the magnificent university museum courtyard. The latest album by the artist entitled “Wisława” includes music inspired by works of the Polish poetess Wisława Szymborska. Tomasz Stańko was accompanied by the Krakow-based pianist Dominik Wania. The magnificent acoustics of the Collegium Maius courtyard together with the magical ambience generated by history and the treasures of culture amassed in the place made the perfect backdrop against which to contemplate Tomasz Stańko’s glorious music. There was more to it: nature roared with a rainstorm coming down just in time for the start of the trumpet and piano playing. The participants were immediately given raincoats and the brief rainstorm did not disturb the audience in the appreciation of the music, which was actually amplified and made more expressive by thunders. All this made the evening part of the "To Touch Culture 2013" memorable and unique.