05 May 2014
Category : Interview
“Tunisia has learned a way of working and interacting with disabled persons”
Interview with Virginia Carcedo, Secretary-General of the FSC Inserta Association of the ONCE Foundation
At the entrance to the classroom, next to the door frame, there is a photo of Rajá Aeargui posted on the wall. That way the children with disabilities who can’t read will know that this is their special education teacher’s classroom. An apparently obvious and simple measure that had not been applied at the Tunisian Institute for Special Education until the 2011 launch of the twinning project “Support for socio-economic integration of disabled persons” between this country and Spain, led by the FIIAPP. The adaptation of furnishings and teaching methods, like the system of pictogrammes, was another one of the measures transferred by Spanish experts on the subject to 36 Tunisian professionals ranging from special education teachers to psychologists and inspectors. In addition, a continuing education plan for teachers at special education centres and field work was developed.
Despite the fact that Tunisia has had legislation supporting persons with disabilities since 1981, neither the education provided to this group nor the design of the centres was fully adapted to their needs This meant that the training of disabled persons was not adequate to prepare them to subsequently join the job market. Therefore the project also focused on this area. A total of 48 Tunisian employment counsellors and social workers received training for providing job counselling to persons with disabilities. Five agreements with Tunisian companies were also signed, thanks to which 20 disabled persons will be incorporated into the job market within approximately one year.
We spoke with Virgina Carcedo, Secretary-General of the FSC Inserta Association of the ONCE Foundation, one of the Spanish institutions collaborating in the project, about the context of disabled persons in Tunisia and the results of the project, which clearly was an attempt to take a leap forward in the quality of Tunisian policies for this group.
What has Tunisia done in the area of policies for persons with disabilities?
Tunisia was one of the first countries to recognize and join the United Nations convention on the rights of disabled persons (2006), and it has had legislation similar to ours in place since the eighties. It is a country that already had an inclusive attitude towards persons with disabilities, and this project arrived at a moment at which democracy was being established in the country with the Arab Spring. So, Tunisia had a favourable environment for the types of projects we have developed.
What did Spain contribute in this project?
Most of all its experience. We have had a law since 1982, the LISMI, which has made it possible to create a very inclusive, and also very influential, disability movement in civil society, with which we have developed a completely transferable socio-occupational model.
What were the results of this project in Tunisia?
Besides strengthening its policies, Tunisia has learned of an experience that can be of great use: the relationship between civil society and the State, and a way of working and interacting with these people. In addition, pilot projects were completed with children with disabilities that have generated a significant trend towards inclusive education, which is the key to having a future in which this group can perform to its full potential. There was also a pilot project with the ANETI, which is the Tunisian Public Employment Service, and diverse companies. They went away with an experience that has served them to implement something they already had in mind.
And what does this mean in the occupational sphere?
First the raising of awareness of social agents. They have acquired methods for evaluating and attending to people with disabilities that put the emphasis on the talent of these people and not on what they can’t do. Companies have discovered that there is a network that interacts with them and advises them once they decide to hire persons with disabilities. They see that this is not a problem but rather an opportunity and that, if they want to, it can be done.
Will job offers for persons with disabilities increase?
We think so. One of the most important and urgent aspects according to business people and the public services themselves is to adapt the profile of persons with disabilities to the companies. By finding a strategic framework in which to make this link between the person and the company, they feel more secure and facilitate the work of incorporation. Therefore, employment will grow little by little.
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