Steps towards social inclusion
Together with Svetlana Dujović, the Director of Public Institution Day Care Center for children and youth with disabilities, we discussed the issue of social inclusion of children and youth with disabilities. This years’ AmCham Thanksgiving donation initiative is aimed at helping thirteen Public Institutions Day Care Centers for children and youth with disabilities. Thanksgiving Charity Cocktail will be held on 22 November, and all donated funds will go towards the procurement of computer equipment and development of social network www.socijalnainkluzija.me.
Could you tell us more about the methods of work practiced in Day-care centers for children and youth with disabilities? What are the activities you conduct with the children and youth in your Institution?
Day-care centers are local public institutions for social and child protection. The founders of these centers are local governments and their partner is Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare.
Currently, there are thirteen Day-Care Centers. However, we are expecting the openings of new day-care centers in the upcoming year.
The fundamental right of children with disabilities to live with their families is essential for establishment and work of these centers for children and youth with disabilities. Many children with the most complex disabilities used to be institutions or were isolated in their homes until day-care centers have been opened.
Apart from individual and group work, day-care centers tend to organize activities which help the inclusion of children and youth in our society. Children and youth with disabilities participate in each social, cultural and sports activity together with other children without disabilities. We believe that this approach makes them more visible in our society which contributes to their inclusion. Day-care centers cooperate with schools and kindergartens and organize mutual activities which enable children without disabilities to be in direct contact with children with disabilities. Hence, this contributes to raising awareness of the rights of these children and their need to play and socialize with their peers.
Day-Care Center for children and youth with disabilities ”Pljevlja” started working on 01.10.2011. In cooperation with Municipality Pljevlja and other institutions and NGOs, we organized many activities in order to create a more inclusive society.
Volunteers represent a great support to our work. Their contribution is of great significance for the children and youth with disabilities because it represents support from peers their own age which directly results in higher levels of socialization. Volunteers spend their free time dedicated to our children and youth, providing them with love, affection, and friendship. Their creativity, ideas, and abilities are daily support for our children. Volunteers are our strength and we are grateful to them.
Volunteering enables greater involvement and social inclusion of children and youth with disabilities which can raise awareness of our citizens as well as future generations. They will contribute towards creating a more humane society, open to diversity.
Organization of events which celebrate important dates such as International Day of Persons with Disabilities, World Down Syndrome Day, World Autism Awareness Day, Children’s day etc. Day-care Centre Pljevlja includes all relevant members of society to contribute towards raising awareness of the right and possibilities for children and youth with disabilities.
Svetlana Dujović, Director
Public Institution Day Care Centre for children and youth with disabilities Pljevlja
How would you evaluate the current inclusion of children and youth with disabilities in Montenegrin society?
In the past few years, there has been a significant improvement of social inclusion. Montenegro had ratified UN Convention of rights of persons with disabilities and UN Convention on children’s rights. Very important legislation initiative regarding social and child protection, their education and employment has been adopted. Law on Prohibition of Discrimination of Persons with Disabilities has been adopted. Significant number of children with disabilities are involved in regular educational system or are integrated into departments which conduct partial inclusion. Former specialized institutions have been reformed into Resource centers. In local communities, children are given support in daily centers. In Bijelo Polje has been opened a small community for children with disabilities without parental care. According to Law on Employment and Professional Rehabilitation, employers can get subsidies if they employ a person with disabilities. Having in mind that inclusion is a process, apart from these improvements, we have to work more on an adequate implementation of legal solutions. We also have to work on changing the mindsets of citizens because some still have prejudice and feel sorry for persons with disabilities.
Social network www.socijalnainkluzija.me has been set up as an initiative by your Day-Care Center and has been put to use to other Day-Care Centers in Montenegro. This is a very creative and innovative solution, can you tell us more about it and what was the inspiration behind it?
Our volunteers came up with the idea to develop social network www.socijalnainkluzija.me because they wanted to offer our children with disabilities an opportunity to use modern technology in their communication.
This social network enables communication between people with disabilities and volunteers from all Day-Care Centers in Montenegro. However, everyone who wishes to participate can use it.
The social network contains a profile page, wall page, notifications, requests for friendship, adjustments, creating pages and groups, liking and following posts as well as other features.
The communications module is set up of chat modules for textual messages as well as phone module for audio and video messages. The platform also contains special modules for converting text into voice and vice versa, zooming in and voice commands to manage the application so that people with visual impairments could use this platform. This module for voice and text enables communication for people with visual and hearing impairments to overcome communication barrier.
The mobile application is available on Google play shop for Android devices as well as on App Store for IOS devices. Applications to access the network are sent via email request for children and persons with disabilities and in the day-care centers for volunteers.
According to you, what are the next stapes which need to be taken in order to achieve better inclusion of people with disabilities?
The process of inclusion is a very complex process which demands participation and involvement of all social and professional fields as well as individuals.
For the development of social inclusion, it is necessary to improve the cooperation between the sectors, especially between the health-care, social and child care, education, and employment sectors. It is needed to improve early diagnosis and intervention. More work has to be done on establishing new services in local communities for children with disabilities because their needs are recognized the best at a local level. Visibility and setting up examples of good practice is also very important for achieving inclusion. Hence, we publish all our activities on our website www.dnevnicentarpv.me and on Facebook page dnevnicentarpljevlja.
People with disabilities have to be provided with an equal access to all segments of life and everyone must comprehend that implementation of the rights of children and people with disabilities is not a social care issue, but basic human right.
Do you have any upcoming projects planned for the future?
In the future, we plan to improve the quality of the work with children and people with disabilities by developing new programs according to their needs as well as European standards relevant for this field.
We wish to procure additional equipment in the field of assistive technology and to develop new software solutions which will help them in their daily lives and improve the life quality of our children. We plan to organize workshops for making items of wood and jewelry. One of our ideas it to set up a greenhouse, where young people with disabilities can cultivate flowers and herbs.
All our future projects are aimed at implementation of rights of all children and people with disabilities in accordance with their estimated needs.