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Goodbye 2021, Hello 2022

calendarDecember 29 2021

Emma Bara, Co-founder of WeCanAccess, takes a quick look back at 2021 and what is coming in 2022.

Goodbye 2021

So we are at the end of 2021 and we have a lot to be proud of at WeCanAccess. WeCanAccess looks very different to how we imagined it would when we first started out, Covid has had a massive impact but we have changed and adapted to the situation and are very proud of our work over the last year.

Indeed, the Covid pandemic continues to have a massive impact on people’s lives. In the UK, it is still hard to mix with friends and family, and services remain difficult to access. Those of us who are facing health challenges are having to be extra careful and are nervous about what Covid 19 and its variants mean for health and support services in the future, and just going out and about. It can be scary and isolating.

For us it has meant online shopping and lots of video and outdoor meetings. I have also been recovering from an operation to insert an ICD, a implantable cardioverter defibrillator, to control my heart in September of 2020. It took me a bit longer to recover than I expected but I am ticking away nicely now. I don’t want to get Covid though, so I have been avoiding crowded places and public transport.

I am not so much worried about myself but my heart condition does put me in a high risk category, and as the parent of children with special needs and disabilities, I am more worried about not being there to take care of them. Whilst every parent wants to be there for their children, overtime it is expected that children will mature, leave home and have a family of their own. However, when your child has additional needs, they may not be able to look after themselves in the same way. Certainly, you can face greater challenges. We spent many months this year battling to get our daughter, who is deaf, into a specialist school. You can read more about that here but, spoiler alert, we won!

Irrespective, when your child has additional needs and disabilities, your expectations have to be adjusted and new plans have to be made.

I once read that the chief aim of a parent of a child with disabilities is to live as long as they do. This certainly resonated with me but as I am unlikely to achieve this, we have to find a new plan. So my husband and I set up WeCanAccess with the aim of changing attitudes and practices, so that our kids will be included and embraced by their communities and the wider world, when we aren’t able to be there for them.

WeCanAccess Academy

Part of WeCanAccess was to create a learning community, to share ideas and practical help around how to make education more inclusive and accessible. So we have spent most of 2021 developing the toolkits and courses in our WeCanAccess Academy and testing them out.

The WeCanAccess Academy offers practical, easy to understand toolkits on how to improve accessibility and inclusion in schools, and how to work with parents of children with special needs and disabilities. There is also a toolkit for parents on how to work with schools, and new toolkits on how to turn every day tasks into learning opportunities will be out soon.

We have had outstanding responses to our toolkits from educationalists and special needs professionals in the UK, India, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ireland, Jamaica, Ethiopia and South Africa, to name but a few. In response to the positive feedback, we are making some changes to the Academy in the New Year to ensure as many people as possible can take positive action, so watch out for our updates in the new year! Visit the WeCanAccess Academy.

Pilot in Nigeria

A pilot project in Nigeria in September 2021 in partnership with the Initiative for National Growth Africa, has been hugely successful with over 80 sign ups to the academy and 100% positive reviews and comments in the follow-up survey. You can see from the comments below that people have found it useful, not only in their work but see applications for the information in other areas of their lives. Something we are thrilled about.

Some of the reviews and comments from Nigeria:

“I actually already recommended to many persons in various social groups I am a part of, because it is a very essential eye opening for every human, it helps in developing our humanity and sense of empathy, as well as equips us to work better with Children with special needs, while helping them build a future they want and will be satisfies and do excellent in.”

“It was a very timely, personal intervention for me as an individual. I decided to take the courses for Nigeria, not because I am a Special Needs Educator, but because I believe these are very essential skills and information that every person should have, as a parent, community member or young person.”

“It gives us a better understanding of the people we get to interact with daily, builds empathy and sensitivity, as well as true concern for the needs of others, while also creating the attitude of accommodation and intentionality in all that we do, even as lawmakers and political leaders.”

“Good Education for educators – The academy identify problems, list out solutions and ways to tackle them. It is online so makes it easier with the COVID-19 pandemic. I really appreciate it.” 

WeCanAccess Youth

Perhaps my proudest achievement this year has been the impact of the WeCanAccess Youth activity.

Schools in London, the UEA and India, have reported previously isolated children making friends as a result of the activity! The WeCanAccess Youth activity aims to help students make classrooms, schools and clubs more inclusive. Young people with additional needs are encouraged to speak out about what changes they would like people to make for life to be more accessible and inclusive for them. It also guides young people in mainstream to consider what action they might take to be more inclusive and make life more accessible for others.

Below is some of the amazing work done by pupils in India who have taken part in the activity:

A child's drawing shows a girl in a wheelchair holding one end of a skipping rope, the girl at the other end of the rope is standing. They are turning the rope for a boy who is jumping.
A trio of pictures by a young person that show children helping and playing with their friends. Includes, one where children are helping to put leg braces on a friend and another where two able bodied children are playing ball with a child in a wheelchair.

You can find out more about the WeCanAccess Youth project and download the free resources in English, Spanish or Portuguese here: WeCanAccess Youth – WecanAccess

Interns and Universities

WeCanAccess has been endorsed by the University of East London’s School of Education and Communities!

We have also been glad to be working with students on the MBA and animation programmes. In addition, we have hosted an intern from the University of Huddersfield, who went on to be accepted onto the #Learning Planet Youth Council, joining an international panel of outstanding young people looking at how to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. We are also looking forward to working with students from the London Interdisciplinary School in 2022.

Talk at HEC Paris

In September WeCanAccess was invited to speak to students on the Sustainability and Social Innovation Master’s Program at HEC Paris, Europe’s top business school. The MSc Sustainability and Social innovation is designed for current aspiring changemakers to develop the skills and knowledge needed to transform both society and enterprises into more sustainable practices. It was exciting for WeCanAccess to be in a room full of outstanding students and watch them become engaged and excited about accessibility and inclusion.

By the end of the session, they were talking about how they could take accessibility and inclusion back to their countries and embed it into their chosen professional fields. It was an honour to be able to influence these future changemakers!

Design for Inclusion with Arup & #LearningPlanet

In January this year, we designed 2 activities for the #LearningPlanet Festival. #LearningPlanet is a UNESCO & CRI backed global alliance of educational stakeholders and learning communities, of which we are proud to be a part Welcome | LEARNING PLANET .

We also developed an awesome partnership with award-winning engineering firm Arup. In May, WeCanAccess was delighted to host a live, online event for schools with expert architects from Arup guiding students through how to design an accessible space.

Students in the UK, Ireland and Portugal attended the event, where they got actively involved in turning an inaccessible cinema into an accessible one. It was such a success, we are hosting another for students aged 11+ as part of the #LearningPlanet Festival 2022 Festival | LEARNING PLANET on 24th January 2022!

This will be our second event for the #LearningPlanet Festival, we designed two activities for the event in January this year and are thrilled to be back again for 2022.

Visit Design accessible places! – WecanAccess for more details on the FREE event in January including how to book.

We wish you all a very happy and healthy 2022!

So you can see that, despite a few health issues and personal battles, we have a lot to be proud of. We also made many new friends and partners over 2021, and we are looking forward to some exciting projects in 2022; the WeCanAccess Youth Project, the workshop with Arup, the launch of the new Academy, even a possible new music and animation project. We hope you will join us along the way!

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