Here is Elena, again, and today I’d like to talk to you about that time when I did my very first workshop on disability in Bucharest and after few months I repeated it with my new volunteer mates.
It was very important for me to share my experiences with other volunteers and to talk about one of my most important issues: diversity and disability. It was not easy at all, in Italy I worked with different users in different institutions and I had never realized how often it takes for granted what you learn.
I was given the opportunity to do a workshop on this topic and I decided to do activities that I have done several times in the past, activities related with the observation of the other, to find different channels of communication, and finally a role game. The latter is a rather intense game, because each person impersonates a type of disability: physical or mental. Obviously there are also those who play the role of the operator and find themselves having to manage a situation that in itself would seem very simple: a meal.
I’m not a teacher and I did not even graduate, but the thing that interested me most in sharing with other volunteers was a concept: disability is a difference and if we do not accept that, the difference exists, it will always be frightening or embarrassing to work with it. It is a broad concept, which also recalls something that often comes to us automatically as the sense of piety. Piety is a strange feeling with which we often risk doing damage because it is linked to a sense of superiority towards the other.
What I want to pass is that if you are dealing with a disabled boy/girl and you feel superior (even unconsciously) because this guy has some “differences/something less”, most likely the first you are the first one who really have something different or less than him/her.
It would be nice to continue experimenting and working on this topic because I think it’s fundamental for the activities carried out here in Bucharest and in general to have a more flexible vision on the topic. I’m happy to have done this workshop despite my bad English and I hope it was useful for those who participated.
The phrase with which I would like to close is a sentence that was erroneously attributed to Franco Basaglia*, which instead belongs to Caetano Veloso**:
“NOBODY IS NORMAL UP CLOSE”.
For me this is not just a quote, it’s a belief.
* Franco Basaglia: Italian Psychiatrist pioneer of the modern concept of mental health, one of the most committed in abolishing mental hospitals in Italy.
**Caetano Veloso: Brazilian composer, singer, guitarist, writer and political activist.