A part of a project “Academic service learning for organizing inclusive communities” a mini-conference has been held on Tuesday, May 28th 2019 in Social work study center, Faculty of law Zagreb. Students that participated in an academic service learning program for analysis an advocating policies for persons with disabilities, presented results from the researches they created and carried out themselves during the last three months.
Results from 6 studies were presented.
Research on effectiveness of psycho-social support for the beneficiaries of “Slava Raškaj“ Educational Centre Zagreb showed that the most important outcomes of psycho-social support, according to the experts that work in this institution, is the progress in the student-adults and experts relationships, prevention of inappropriate and unacceptable behavior and physical and cognitive progress of the students. The opinion of experts is that main difficulties in providing psycho-social support are insufficient resources (lack of experts which result in lack of time for students and all their complex challenges), difficulties with motivating students, and difficulties in collaboration of teachers and experts that provide psycho-social support.
A research about content availability for blind persons in the city of Čakovec showed that blind persons as well as their sighted fellow citizens observe the same obstacles and disadvantages: unadjusted infrastructure to the needs of blind persons where it is most needed – in shops, on the streets and in institutions; stigmatization of blind persons and the lack of citizen’s awareness about the needs of the blind and ways of assisting them in making the contents in the community equally available. It is encouraging that the sighted citizens observe equally those disadvantages and are half way to remove at least one – stigmatization.
Research on availability of orthopedic aids for persons with physical disabilities, which a group of students conducted in the city of Samobor, also showed that the main disadvantage is inadequate awareness of obstacles that the persons with disabilities are facing in the fulfillment of a basic human right – to live and enjoy public goods and services in the same scope as persons without disabilities. Regarding orthopedic aids, a crushing and troubling fact is that they are treated as a commercial product and not as a basic right of a person with disability to the best aid available, which enables equalization of possibilities to the same level as persons without disabilities.
A group of students conducted a research about attitudes of social work students about the right for persons with disabilities for marriage and intimacy. Expectedly, students are highly sensitized and are not prejudice towards marriage and intimacy of persons with disabilities, and consider that marriage and intimacy of persons with disabilities and those without disabilities is completely acceptable. They can, though, more easily imagine themselves in a relationship with a person with physical or sensory disability than with a person with a psycho-social disability or intellectual difficulties. However, a certain number of investigated students can imagine themselves in that kind of relationship, and that is a data worth of attention.
As for obstacles for full involvement of students with disabilities and the availability of student life content, a research showed that students with disabilities are mostly satisfied with how colleges and universities ensure the availability of lectures, materials and exams. They are less satisfied about the availability of leisure activities – clubs and coffee shops, without which a student life is not the same. Nevertheless, they spend most of their free time socializing with friends who are mostly not persons with disabilities. They find stigmatization most bothersome.
In the end, one research evaluated services that Community center Kostajnica provides to persons with intellectual difficulties and psycho-social disabilities. Participants in the research were persons with disabilities, their family members, Community center staff, and stakeholders in the local community. Results show that, although the achievements are considerable and the satisfaction of the beneficiaries and their family members substantial, there is still a need to work on sensibilization of the local community, as well as on greater involvement of the citizens without disabilities, and the community as a whole in the work of the Community center and their shared activities. We are thankful to the students for those valuable insights and recommendations.