Independent Living Institute www.independentliving.org

The following document is part of the project proposal "Training as Vehicle to Employment" submitted to the European Union Commission on July 11, 2005. The project was awarded funding and commenced in January 2006. Training as Vehicle to Employment, TVE, was a two year project that started in January 2006 and ended in December 2007.

OPEN CALL FOR PROPOSALS FOR TRANSNATIONAL PROJECTS VP/2005/006

PILOT PROJECTS ON ACTIONS TO MAINSTREAM DISABILITY POLICIES

Detailed description of the project

 

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

Main objectives of the project

Inclusion of persons with disabilities in the labor market

Available research about transition from school to working life shows that lack of work experience is a major obstacle to employment. Persons with disabilities are grossly under-represented in national and EU programmes for youth exchanges and internships. Our analysis of these programs shows that people with disabilities in order to apply need easily accessible information, in particular about accommodations at the workplace, the availability of accessible housing and transportation, personal assistance services or readers for sight-impaired persons, the associated costs of these services and information about funding sources for these additional costs.

The planned project is to focus on national government agencies' traineeships in order to develop, test and promote a set of measures which, hopefully, would make them inclusive regarding persons with disabilities.

ILI and its partners intend to take the initiative in opening existing traineeship or internship opportunities at national government agencies to qualified persons with disabilities. National government agencies, more than private corporations or NGOs, have an obligation for and can be held accountable for implementing non-discrimination policies ratified by national governments. As the saying goes, “to sweep a staircase one starts at the top". By getting national government agencies committed to include qualified persons with disabilities we hope to set examples of good practice which oblige not only other public sector employers but also corporations and NGOs, in particular NGOs in the field of disability, to follow suit.

All partners and associate partners consider themselves as part of the Independent Living Movement and use the Independent Living principles and approach in their work. One of the main tenets is that as disabled people we must take the lead in developing solutions, demonstrating their viability and promoting them.

Also, the IL Movement is known for its policy of reserving work and training opportunities for people with disabilities. In this way, our organizations can comfortably use the motto of the European Year of Disabled People 'Nothing about us without us'.

There have been campaigns for the employment of persons with disabilities before. These efforts have often been seriously handicapped by the fact that disabled people have been cast in a passive role by the promoters, since disabled people seldom have been the prime motors in these efforts. Also, the emphasis has often been that "they" (i.e. people with disabilities) need jobs rather than focussing on our qualifications. We believe that in our efforts to win over key administrators of national government agencies and have them join our national networks and in our contacts with the media we can draw advantage of the fact that almost all staff working with the project will consist of persons with disabilities who have first hand experience of the difficulties faced by our group in the labor market and who - without having to mention it - will convey the message that persons with disabilities can be motivated and capable employees as well as interesting and efficient colleagues.

Scope

The partnership will focus on

The partnership, however, is in no position to take the operational or financial responsibility for sending applicants to government agencies for training.

Detailed description of the project

Transition from school to working life for youth with disabilities

As the number of new jobs in most European Union countries diminishes, many young people have difficulties in finding employment after their education’s completion. Participation in international exchange programs for studies or work training can improve an individual’s chances in the labor market. People with disabilities are grossly underrepresented in these programs. In our analysis, the reasons are:

Existing efforts to improve disabled youth’s opportunities often fail because they do not address these bottlenecks. Moreover, in our analysis, the sporadic projects that are intended to promote our group’s employment often result in the opposite effect by presenting youth with disabilities as a special group rather than as people whose participation in the labor market requires the removal of physical or organizational barriers. Depicting us as “special" alarms potential employers and labels the individual.

Ideological considerations

In the proposed project we intend to avoid the pitfalls of labelling and stigmatizing individuals. We promote an inclusive approach. Government agencies that offer traineeship or internships to youth will be encouraged and supported in offering these opportunities to all qualified young people including those with disabilities.

As integral part of our approach disabled national project workers will contact and work with government officials. They will function as role models, hopefully, dispelling some myths, for example, the wide-spread attitude that disabled workers need special consideration and cannot be expected to perform fully. Due to their own experiences in the labor market the disabled national project workers will be listened to as authoritative experts.

In our analysis, it is crucial that the initiative in the proposed project comes from disabled people themselves. All too long we have been depicted as passive objects of well-meaning professionals which has been detrimental to our image. Equally decisive to our approach is the fact that all partner organizations belong to the Independent Living movement which uses a human rights approach in its work. When we invite government agencies to join our network for inclusive traineeships or contact the media, we will speak as citizens and taxpayers expecting equal access not philanthropy.

Project activities and method

The partnership’s national project workers will start a pilot project in each project country. (The Swedish worker builds networks in Sweden and Denmark, the Finnish colleague in Finland and Estonia, the Latvian worker in Latvia and Lithuania, the Polish worker in Poland, the Czech and Slovak Republics, the Irish worker in Ireland and the UK, the German worker in Germany and Austria, the Spanish worker in Spain and Portugal, the Greek worker in Greece; our associate partners will start pilot projects in Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Bulgaria.)

One of the first tasks of the national project worker is to identify key individuals in relevant government agencies, MPs working with employment issues, trade union officials, career counsellors, representatives of disability organizations as well as individuals with disabilities seeking employment. National project workers establish personal contact, inform about the project, solicit cooperation and announce the forthcoming quarterly project newsletters to ensure that emails from the project will not be treated as spam. To the extent deemed necessary, some of the newsletters will be sent by regular mail.

The national project worker will create a leadership structure gradually transferring initiative and functions to several government agency administrators with the aim of enabling the network to continue to function after the project period.

The functions of the network are to

Potential long-term effect

By concentrating on the project countries’ government agencies the issue of inclusive training opportunities is expected to receive exposure and a political profile which, in turn, might put pressure on local and regional governments and their agencies to follow suit. Such a development, in time, could force NGOs and corporations to see over their training policies as well.

Tools

Log/diary/discussion forum: all network members in the project countries, in particular national project workers, keep an online structured log/diary/discussion forum of their activities in order to monitor the activities of national networks, to document and share events, issues, solutions, examples of practice, resources across countries. ILI will send quarterly summaries of these logs to national project workers.

Newsletter: From ILI’s quarterly summaries national project workers prepare quarterly newsletter in their national language. To the extent necessary printed copies will be mailed to network members.
Semi-annual physical meetings: In each project country, network members meet in person three times during the project period for the purposes of setting the agenda, establishing leadership structures and discuss strategies for political support.

Expected results and outputs

1. A dozen documented, tested and evaluated pilot projects, one in each project country. Starting with the same approach in all project countries, adapting it to local conditions, comparing its performance and having it evaluated towards the end of the project period by the external evaluator will result in a documented method or methods which, if deemed successful, can be replicated in the remaining European Union countries.

2. A 4 page write-up, in the project countries’ languages, summarizing the features recommended for replicating the project in other EU countries, online and in print.

3. Three guides or handbooks, in the project countries’ languages, available in print and online, to assist government agencies in

4. A list on the project’s website, www.independentliving.org/studyworkabroad, of government agencies, by project country, that have started the process of assessing their premises and work activities, acquiring technical expertise in improving their general accessibility, adopting written disability policies, action plans including budgets, and encouraging qualified persons with disabilities to apply for training positions. The list is in English, its use is free of charge.

5. An online list on the project’s website with several hundred NGOs working in the field of disability in the project countries willing to provide information about local conditions for persons with disabilities regarding the availability of accessible housing, transportation, personal assistance, sign language interpretation or readers for blind persons as well as the associated costs of these services.

6. A dozen national networks, each consisting of several dozen government agency administrators, MPs working with employment issues, trade union representatives, representatives of disability organizations as well as individuals with disabilities seeking employment; with a leadership structure which will hopefully continue its work after the project period for the purpose of sharing technical and organizational expertise, setting a high standard of general accessibility in public workplaces and working towards a national policy and its implementation regarding inclusive training and hiring in each project country.

7. An international network and discussion forum consisting of altogether several hundred individuals and agencies in all project countries sharing their expertise and commitment for inclusive work training for persons with disabilities

8. A set of 8 quarterly newsletters, in all project country languages, with information, statistics and anecdotal evidence about training opportunities in the project countries, technical and organizational issues and solutions, examples of good and bad practice.

Responsibilities and contributions of the partners

Lead partner: Independent Living Institute, Sweden, overall coordination (training, management of database lists, methodology).

Transnational partners (networking, supporting government agencies in making traineeships inclusive, newsletter):

Associate partners (networking, supporting government agencies in making traineeships inclusive, newsletter):

Strategic partner

Paul-Ehrlich-Institute, Germany: offers traineeship to qualified persons with disabilities.

Partnership arrangements

For the proposed project’s method to be effective it is crucial to work with partner organizations which employ disabled people as national project workers, are run and controlled by disabled people, use the human rights approach in their work, have first-hand experience of facing obstacles to work and share the same analysis of our group’s employment difficulties. Since all partners consider themselves to be part of the Independent Living Movement, these conditions are met.

We were looking for stable, efficient organizations with strong background in labor market issues, high political profile and leadership positions in their countries.

We were keen on having partners in old, new and acceding EU countries which will allow us to test and hone our methodology in countries of differing economic situations, social traditions and approaches to disability.

In a three-day workshop in Stockholm at the beginning of the project we will discuss and agree on methodology and finalize our respective functions and roles.

Since most of us have previously worked together, we do not expect the need of additional physical meetings but anticipate to handle our communications and decision-making by phone, email and our online structured log/diary/discussion forum.

Relevant qualifications and experience in the field concerned

The co-ordinating organization, the Independent Living Institute, is currently finishing its project “Study and Work For All", www.independentliving.org/studyworkabroad/, with support from the Swedish government, in order to improve disabled peoples’ chances in the labor market through better access to higher studies. In the course of the project a list of over 1,000 universities in Europe and other OECD countries was compiled that offer services to students with disabilities. The online database also contains information about scholarships and references to sources of information about local conditions for disabled people, such as availability of accessible housing and public transportation, personal assistance or readers for blind persons, etc. The present service enjoys currently over 1,000 visitors a day and has become a major source of information about university studies for disabled students and university counsellors.

Working with the three year project has enabled our team to develop expertise in developing methods for identifying, compiling, managing and displaying relevant information about institutions, their addresses and contact persons in searchable online databases and in promoting the use of the service among user groups such as university students, university administrators, high school counsellors, etc. This expertise would greatly benefit the proposed project where similar approaches and techniques are required.

The two services, the list of universities with services for disabled students and the proposed list of training opportunities with national government agencies, would share several synergies such as overlapping target groups, common dissemination channels and similar database technology. Also, the two services would complement each other: students with disabilities would see how their completed university studies might lead to traineeships and, hopefully, to employment.

As far as the partner organizations are concerned, their role in the project would build on their knowledge of the national labor market for persons with disabilities, their contacts with disabled people in their country, their already established political and media contacts, and their commitment to promoting disabled people’s equal opportunities in the labor market.

European added value

The transnational dimension in the proposed project serves a number of purposes:

Dissemination of the project outputs and results/visibility of the project

The project’s target audience are persons with disabilities and their organizations at the national and European level, heads and human resource managers of government agencies, MPs and MEPs working with employment issues, trade union officials, career counsellors as well as the general public. Each of these target groups has its networks, associations, periodicals, websites, listservers, etc. It will be the task of the national project workers in recruiting members of the target audience to the national project networks to learn how to access these networks, associations, periodicals, etc for the purpose of spreading the quarterly newsletter.

The project’s website www.independentliving.org/studyworkabroad is another vehicle for disseminating the project’s results. There, visitors have access to all newsletters, project publications in the form of guides and manuals (s. Outputs under item 1.2), statistical results, lists of government agencies with inclusive policies and practices, country and agency rankings, etc. The website already in July 2005 enjoys over 1,000 visitors a day. (ILI’s web programmer is an expert in maximizing a site’s exposure to Google.) National project workers will include links to the website’s project information and project results in all newsletters and press releases.

Each of the over one dozen project countries will have its quarterly newsletter with an estimated circulation of 200 copies. The number of quarterly press releases per project country will be approximately 50.

While the electronic media is an attractive means for high quantity dissemination, the semi-annual physical meetings of the national networks will have a more limited but higher quality impact.
 
Monitoring and evaluation of the project activities

Monitoring and periodic evaluation as integral part of project design

The project design provides for a number of built-in monitoring and evaluation indicators. The most important tool in this respect is the online structured log/diary/discussion forum in which all events, new network members, new government agencies with disability policies, etc will be entered. On account of its structure, the performance of individual national project workers and countries will be measured, compared, ranked and published on the project’s website, its newsletters and press releases as an integral part of the project’s work for improving training opportunities for youth with disabilities. Thus, quarterly quantitative and qualitative indicators are the planned result of regular project activity.

Quantitative performance indicators

The project’s ultimate goal is to develop, adapt and test a method for providing youth with disabilities with equal access to the training opportunities offered by government agencies in the European Union. Thus, the over-riding performance criterion of the method as a whole, over the long term, would be the percentage of participating youth with disabilities in these programs compared to the percentage of disabled people in the relevant age cohorts in the general population. Since the project period is much too short to expect such tangible results, it will be more useful to look at performance indicators that measure intermediate goals such as

The above indicators will be registered, per country, per quarter or cumulatively over longer periods, and for all project countries. The statistics can be used to focus on an agency’s progress or lack of progress compared to other agencies in the same country or to show which project countries perform best and worst. One of the quarterly newsletter’s highlights will be ranking a country’s agencies and ranking the project countries. The competitive element is expected to engage project workers, the media and government agency administrators.

Qualitative performance indicators

While many important project activities result in easily available, periodically produced quantitative variables, the success of the national pilot projects and their components can also be tested using qualitative criteria, such as

Organisation of the project/schedule of activities

1. Quarter 2006

2. Quarter 2006

3. Quarter 2006

4. Quarter 2006

1. Quarter 2007

2. Quarter 2007

3. Quarter 2007

4. Quarter 2007

On behalf of The Independent Living Institute
Dr Adolf Ratzka
Stockholm, 11th of July 2005