Inclusion and Accommodation of Special Needs

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In our activities we should ensure, that participants from different social categories may involve. There are practical and fundamental reasons. Fundamentally, participation is a right for everybody and the quality of participatory processes depends on their accessibility, on representation of the groups in the population and on their ability to involve. Practically speaking, inclusion of different background helps us to reach out to more groups of citizens, to involve more perspectives and knowledge, to come up with better ideas for change. Let's use the potential of diversity for our work.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities aims "full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity." Or in other words: All people should have the chance of full social participation. Therefore inclusion means to involve people with different attitudes, backgrounds, or people with special needs.

Too Complicated!

Often we start too fast in thinking about the complexity of inclusion: Our project budget is too small. We are not educated enough, or our hotel is not suitable. Forget it! In this chapter we want to motivate you for finding smart solutions. Because we think, that inclusion will lead to interesting outcomes and enrich you and your group. On the other hand we know about the limitations that we have. Therefore we want to show you, how you may substitute a lack of funds with the power of your team and your group.

People with Special Needs

People with special needs are often the ones with fewer opportunities and the least involved in such volunteer activities. They often are not aware of the events happening in their area, regarding their specific communities or about their potential interests. Therefore we should take care to spread the information and possible calls for application in respective organizations, volunteer groups, online non-formal networks etc. The category of potential persons with special needs is very wide. It includes

Special Needs

  • Mental health problems,
  • Disabilities,
  • Pregnancy,
  • Chronicle diseases
  • Other (invite learners to bring them up: Method Five fingers-expectations)

There are a large number of mental health problems and disabilities which can be of low, moderate or severe scale. The disability can be visible or hidden. It does not mean that the hidden ones are less severe.

Accesible Formats During the Application Process

You might send the application form in an accessible data format. If you have an online aplication form, test its compatibility with screen reader software. If you are not able to apply it, offer a file-based alternative (in a well formatted .doc).

Accessible data formats are easy to use: It is enough, that you use for your .docs a clear text structure. Screen readers are machine voices like you know them from navigation systems. They go through a text from top to bottom and identify the hierarchy of text elements.

Local Planning

Reasonable accommodation as a key principal towards all-inclusion. This means to adjust the environment to enable a qualified individual with a disability to perform the tasks, to enjoy the same rights, or be included as fully as possible as the other participants in a project. We mention some aspects, that help you in local planning: Local planning. But most important and efficient might be, to as your participants as early as possible.

Transport and Travel Reimbursement

People with special needs, have sometimes - special needs. Therefore, prove if you might offer them in some cases more comfort in transportation. This tolerance is to compensate their difficulties and to guaranty their safety.

In example, travelling with a plane might for some people a good solution, if he or she could not travel long hours by bus as the others without mobility challenges. And in addition

  • Air transport guaranties by law professional assistance all the time before during and after flight until the person with a special need arrives in the right destination.
  • You only have to take care for the transport from and to the airport.


During your budgeting, take the following extra costs into account:

  • Extra-funds for a guiding person in case of a participant really needs extra-help-
  • Printing materials in accessible formats such as Braille
  • Hiring a sign language interpreter, or another assistance
  • Specific travel costs

Flexible Planning

We should take in consideration also the agenda of the activities. Be flexible enough for applying your plans. Focus consequently on your goals and plan cearfully the overall goals for your training or project.

Designing Accessible Teaching Methods.

During a youth project or training we have to consider teaching methods or exercises which are possible to be done by all kinds of participants involved. They can be tested in advance with similar target groups. Reflect the appropriate suggestions in the final stage. It is not assumed to change their function or nature but to really consider how doable they are from these categories of participants.


Facilitating communication for participants with certain kinds of disability such as: visual impairment, speech impairment, hearing impairment etc needs sometimes assistance.

  • interpreters, sign language interpreters
  • personal assistance
  • verbal descriptions of what’s going around or how some visual teaching methods
  • mediation between group and a participant with speech impairments.
  • simultaneous writing or drawing methods

Obviously, assistance increases complexity for your project management. Additional persons must be invited, your budget needs to reflect this as well. There are cases when is not necessary to hire someone from outside to fulfill some functions of accommodating a participant with special needs. Some options do not cost money but raise the involvement of the you and your participants.

Group Solidarity

If the right explanations are given, the other participant or members of the team can do this very well. This fosters also group solidarity which is a good result of social projects.

  • Increasing the level of responsibility of all participants
  • Stimulating communication among the people in your group
  • Reducing costs

On the other hand, reflect in your planning, that actions that have to be taken by your participants instead by a professional "bought" service require time and mindfulness.

The organizers/trainers are the first contact point that the participants have with the project. If they show themselves the model of engaged person which is helpful and creative with ideas and actions towards facilitation of special needs, other participants could be encouraged to do the same. People usually like to imitate and to show their best in front of the others and we should use that psychological tendency.

We should not act based on just from a certain individual that we know or a certain experience that we may have had before. We should ask before offering help and not to try to help without being asked for such thing. Sometimes people can be offended because they may easily do that by themselves.

Materials and Documentation

The contents of the materials could become accessible if we provide it in easily reachable formats such as

Easy Accessible Materials

  • Large ink-print for persons with visual impairments,
  • Braille print for persons without any sight,
  • Audio recorded and electronic format for the above mentioned ones or persons with dyslexia
  • Sign language interpreted for persons with hearing impairments etc.

Anisa Proda

Senior Accessibility Consultant at T-Mobile. Lecturer and facilitator for diversity and inclusion. Studied political science and international relations at European University Tirana and University of Washington.