Stereotypically young people are often considered to only care about themselves, their party opportunities and their social media accounts. But as all stereotypes, this one is also profoundly false! The Youth Forum of Odorheiu Secuiesc (in Hungarian language: Udvarhelyi Fiatal Fórum – UFF) often organize programmes for inclusion and social purpose.
In 2022, under an Erasmus+ programme, they chose to support their cities professionals (policy makers, architects, urban planners) in their efforts to provide full access for people living with disabilities to all the public places and public services in the city.
They defined a few initial questions: How can European cities be better designed to be more accessible for all? Should local authorities, urban planners and architects consider these issues more carefully? And if so, which are the accessibility challenges, can we – civil society and its representatives, active NGOs – help to overcome them?
Just like their peers from Greece, Turkey, Spain, Poland, and Portugal, the UFF participants at the project mapped the city from the point of view of people with disabilities. They organized “scavenger hunt” style activities, having in mind the special conditions that people with disabilities have, they held workshops to understand the everyday life of people with disabilities, they even explored an exhibition of a visually impaired artist.
Finally they made tours of the city following pre-assigned routes with wheelchairs and white canes, analyzing the facilities in the neighborhood and recording them on video.
As a final result they draw a mobile map of Odorheiu Secuiesc from on sights and experiences of the day before. They compared their findings to the results of an earlier, similar programme that took place in 2017, they overviewed the differences, improvements and persistent problems.
On the last day of the activities, they prepared presentations and presented them to the city’s leaders.
The secondary goal of this initiative was to promote the culture of acceptance, inclusion and the importance of dialogue among citizens on a topic that is often neglected or simply treated as a taboo.
Due to the media representation and social media publicity, this programme successfully drew the attention of the citizens to the serious problem that their fellow citizens face in their everyday life. However, spreading awareness was not its only result, young participants truly contributed to making the town more accessible by mapping and presenting problems and possible solutions towards local leaders.
There is a promotional video of the activity: