At the Launching Conference in Madrid 27 March, the SOS Network presented five institutions from five different European countries with an innovative, empowering and well-proven approach to inclusion of students/learners with special needs in vocational training and education. The 2014 SOS Award went to ONCE who achieved the highest number of votes among the audience.
The 2014 SOS Laureate: ONCE - Spain
The Spanish Organization for the Blind (ONCE) is a corporation whose priority is to promote initiatives that improve the quality of life of blind and visually impaired people.
ONCE provides an aid package to over 71,000 blind or severely visually impaired people living in Spain. Most of this aid is free of charge and ranges from basic visual rehabilitation, financial aid for healthcare and specialized education to access to culture, sports and the promotion of employment. The organization is at the forefront of job creation for the disabled in Spain. With more than 20,000 workers engaged in selling lottery tickets, the ONCE is run by its own members and has diversified its resources via business investments that combine economic and social returns.
ONCE also undertakes wide-ranging international efforts, especially through the ONCE Foundation for Solidarity with the Blind of Latin America (Spanish acronym, FOAL), created in 1998. The ONCE has undertaken actions in 19 countries in America in the fields of education (benefiting more than 121,000 blind schoolchildren), training and the workplace, reaching out to more than 52,000 people in the last four years.
Other shortlisted organisations
Gimnazjum nr. 8 - Poland www.gim8.wroc.pl
The programme is based on individual work with the student/tutor/teacher and links the learning relation on rules of the personal „dialogue” and the implementation of new pedagogical approaches (short and long-term planning of assignments, personal relation, confidence, rendition of the decision etc.) The tutor/ teacher is responsible for the planning of the work schedule during the semester, the monitoring of progress and the weekly (short) meeting with the student. Furthermore, he/she will arrange one meeting per month of at least 30-40 minutes, the support/ contact with parents, the recapitulation along with the student, and the realization of work schedule at the end the semester, with inspiring reflection as well as monthly reports. All this demonstrates a clear focus on constantly following-up to the initiatives that the school is involved in with the students.
Fundia MOTIVATION – Romania www.motivation.ro/en/
Fundia Motivation plays a unique role in Romania. It offers a comprehensive palette of services for disabled people of a variety of ages, from children to adults. Motivation Romania provides independent living programmes for people with mobility disabilities; personalized wheelchairs, counselling and peer group training that increases self-confidence, independence and social integration, psychical therapy and sports events. Motivation Romania offers a home and rehabilitation service for 27 deinstitutionalized children and young adults with disabilities. It also supplies employment services to people with all types of disabilities. Romania is still struggling to integrate disabled people in the labour market, and therefore, the work and the results of the institution clearly distinguish itself in the country.
The foundation does not only provide temporary help for children and young people with disabilities, but it also works with local communities to offer a sustainable solution for these people and help them have a satisfying, happy life integrated socially and professionally.
I.T.T.S. Silvano Fedi- Enrico Fermi - Italy www.itisfedi.pt.it
This vocational school implements innovative didactics focused on learning-by-doing for students with special needs rather than standard frontal lessons that could be difficult for them to follow. The students study in innovative labs where they have the possibility to learn, implement and construct innovative prototypes, create software and be involved in the design and construction of new things.
It provides the possibility to substitute standard frontal lessons with applied activities for students with special needs who otherwise are at the risk of dropout. The joint work in an innovative lab focusses on cooperation, participation, and joint work for a concrete project.
Finally, the school introduced vertical curriculum, which means that classes/teachers of other schools can visit their Robotics labs to make this innovative approach widely known among teachers of other schools and so can address their students properly.
Specialisterne - Denmark www.specialisterne.com
In Denmark, it is unusual to look at people suffering from autism as persons with particular resources or qualities. Behavioural challenges are often considered disabilities and are treated by society and individuals as such. “Specialisterne's” (meaning ‘The Specialists’) approach is quite the opposite and they instead focus on turning a serious disability into an individual resource or personal stronghold.
The special skill-set that often goes hand-in-hand with autism – attention to detail, strong logical and analytical skills, an above-average ability to concentrate for long periods of time, diligence and zero-fault tolerance - gives (some) people suffering from autism the edge when it comes to a wide range of tasks within the field of IT. This kind of skill-set can be a real asset to various companies and organizations.
At ‘Specialisterne’, people with autism work in an environment where they are presented with the best possible opportunities to reach their potential. They do not have to learn to adapt to the usual working-environment norms, such as being a good team player, being empathetic, handling stress well and showing flexibility. For people with autism, these requirements are difficult to honour.
‘Specialisterne’ operates around the world and they are truly socially innovative companies, using the characteristics of people with autism as a competitive advantage, and as a means to help people with autism secure employment. The majority of the employees in ‘Specialisterne’ have a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, and work as consultants on tasks such as software testing, programming and data-entry for the corporate sector.