Protect yourself

12-01-01-129People with intellectual disabilities can make decisions on their own; they can bear responsibility for that. However, it is vital to teach them to protect their rights. NGO “Belarusian association of assistance to children and young people with disabilities” knows how to do that.

Belarus joined the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities a year ago. Thanks to that new services, new educational programs and services for people with disabilities appeared in the past few months. For example, supported living service presumes that adults with intellectual disabilities can live quite independently. In practice, very often parents and social service employees continue taking care of “adult children”. Complete inability to care for oneself is very often ascribed to these people, so no one helps them to develop their skills. As a result, when there is a need to make a decision, people with disabilities become flustered and don’t know what to do.

How can we help people with disabilities grow up and get rid of hyperprotection? Specialists of NGO “BelAPDiIMI” know the answer. They worked out a new project “School of self-advocates”. The initiative was supported by the Department of the Embassy of Switzerland in Minsk.

Elena Boiko, the project manager, says: “The idea isn’t new. Our organization tried to take up legal education of people with disabilities earlier. It was found that several youngsters had never held a passport in their hands before. Yes, they can write, for instance, a request for material assistance using a model. But just few of youngsters know where to find necessary data in a passport (passport number, place of registration, etc.). Taking into account the above-mentioned information, it was decided to organize a special course for young people with disabilities with the aim to teach them to protect their rights and interests”.

2 groups, each consisting of 10-11 persons, participated in the project. People with intellectual disabilities over 18 years old, who are employed and have motivation for being trained, were invited to the course. “School of self-advocates” worked on the basis of the social workshop “Warm House” and Territorial center for social services to population in Tsentralniy district of Minsk.

Elena mentioned that people who attended the course had different level of development, different individual abilities, potential and social experience. Some of them could perceive information in a very simple form. Others could talk using abstract notions. For example, Pavel Evkhov likes watching different TV programs, he is aware of the latest news happening in the world. But when Pavel was asked to explain the meaning of the word “tax”, when he was asked to make a distinction between rights and duties and to list his best qualities and character traits, he faced the problem, as well as other students of “School of self-advocates” did. It was a difficult task for Pavel to cope with.

Elena continues: “In our work we used role playing games to help youngsters to reveal their capabilities. They learned how to fill in a visa application form needed for a would-be journey; they made a list of their rights and duties, including the ones they have at home, and, of course, they paid compliments to each other”.


In the beginning we planned to provide only legal education to participants of the project, but then it appeared that this is not the only field which troubles the youngsters. They also wanted to know how to protect themselves from gas poisoning, how to extinguish burning oil on a frying pan, how to behave when you meet a swindler or a hooligan. We were searching for answers to these questions all together.

Elena Boiko explains: “We showed short films and special short videos of different topics, for example, about fire safety. Our youngsters could see that burning oil on a frying pan could easily be extinguished with the help of the ground from a flowerpot. They understood that if they would be followed by a stranger, they mustn’t hide in a solitary place. Now they know that they must go to a shop, a bank, or any other place full of people. We also talked over an algorithm for calling the police or an ambulance; we explained which information is necessary to tell in such a case. We talked over many situations and traps which are dangerous for pedestrians, the road traffic participants.


Minsk territorial centers of social services to population are about to add many of the suggestions of NGO “BelAPDIiMI” to their arsenal, especially, taking into account the fact that this project doesn’t take much funding.

“I am often asked whether we have detailed plans (samples of lessons) which could be used in work. No, we don’t have such materials, as every new group of students will have their own characteristics and specific learning situations. Everything depends on students’ abilities. However, we have a study guide with several examples of lessons based on which other specialists can organize their own study process” – explains Elena Boiko.

Elena Denisenko

Source of information: newspaper “Minsk courier”

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