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SportAbility: equality and participation through sports
Start date: Aug 1, 2016, End date: Jan 31, 2017 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Nowadays, young people more and more tend to avoid “real” social situations preferring social media virtual socialisation. Without direct interpersonal exchange, young people are often not aware of the benefits of participation, mutual support and overcoming differences. In young visually impaired people, this tendency to isolate from their peers is even more pronounced due to a number of additional factors (reduced independent mobility, lack of accessibility of facilities for leisure and sports, etc.).In this context and in the very year of the Paralympic Games 2016, the Italian Union of the Blind and Partially Sighted – Central Board thinks it is important to organise an international youth exchange based on sports where young sighted people and young people with visual impairment will jointly do specific sports for the blind, adapted sports and other activities. This project aims at- promoting the establishment of positive, personal interactions among sighted and visually impaired youth, that will lead them to overcome the mistrust and prejudices and develop ties of friendship, solidarity and cooperation internationally;- stimulating the improvement of those skills that positively impact on visually impaired people's orientation and independent mobility - promoting increased young people's self-esteem, self-confidence and confidence in others;- encouraging young people to actively contribute to overcome the obstacles that prevent full participation in community life.Participants will come from Italy, Finland and Cyprus. Each national group will consist of a team leader and 6 young people between 18 and 30 years, out of which 4 with visual impairment (blind and partially sighted) and 2 without disabilities. Particular attention will be given to gender balance and to the different geographical and social backgrounds of the participants.During the exchange, every morning there will be icebreaker exercises, then until the afternoon participants will go through learning and doing sports, namely showdown, torball, judo, baseball, fencing and tandem. In late afternoon several sessions will dedicated to body language, sport as a universal right, Youthpass and one or more performances of sports or games for the blind from the countries of origin of the groups. In the last days of the exchange, participants will draft the "Manifesto on the Accessibility of Sports and Sport Facilities" that, during the final demonstration event in a public square of Pisa, European City of Sport 2016, will be handed to the invited authorities.The coordinator has involved partner organizations since the beginning of the project drafting, and national groups will take an active part in the running of some of the exchange sessions. As regards sport activities, specialised trainers will be involved. Visually impaired and sighted youth will take part in activities together and they will be placed on equal terms as sigthed participants will be blindfolded during sport activities. All of them will be assisted by experienced support staff. The use of specific instruments will also be needed to ensure sport accessibility.The expected results of the project are the increased knowledge of young people about the sports done by the visually impaired and the main adaptations and expedients for accessibility in daily life, the demonstrative final event and the Manifesto on the Accessibily of Sports and Sport Facilities, which will be available in 4 languages.The impact of the project on participants primarily will seek to measure whether there was a psychological evolution in young people, both visually impaired and sighted, toward the overcoming of mutual stereotypes; whether short or long term friendly ties were established, in particular among the sighted and visually impaired youth and among participants from different countries; whether they increased their participation in sports or active citizenship initiatives.The project will propose a replicable model of inclusive activities that are (re) habilitative not only from the point of view of health and independent mobility, but also in terms of personal growth and social inclusion. Furthermore, the exchange will prove to young people themselves, disability self-representative organisations and organisations dealing with youth policy that this type of activity promotes the empowerment of young people, making them proactive citizens engaged in the recognition of their rights. The Manifesto, available in at least four European languages, will boost the demand that the culture of sport for all is accepted at all levels and that strong commitment is made to its implementation by politicians and the public administration.
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