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How Talking To Those Affected Helped Shape Our Project

Teachers Blog

How Talking To Those Affected Helped Shape Our Project

Disability Accessibility took part in the 2014-2015 YSI Schools Programme winning the overall award in their category. Disability Accessibility was made up of very hard working, committed students who chose the project goal themselves. Choosing their own project goals, ensured that the students remained interested, encouraged and focused throughout the duration of the project.

How research helped form our project goals

The group members began by brainstorming and mind-mapping in class, putting all their ideas together. They then had to investigate if any similar projects had been attempted to ensure that they were being fresh and innovative. The group began with the broad aim of services for people with disabilities or easier access for disabled drivers. Through the research methods, and speaking to disabled drivers and the carers of people with disabilities the group realised how frustrating a topic it could be for the people involved. The group were shocked to hear of the abuse of disabled driving bays and one mother told them of the simple feat of attending the supermarket with her children was impossible because the space was never available, often blocked by delivery vans. This is where the students were inspired to create the app and to include the report abuse of parking aspect to it. After researching, the project goals were adapted as the areas that needed to be targeted were clear. These suited the group, they then set out what they wanted to achieve and how they were going to do so.

Approaching people for help

Once the group had decided the different areas they were going to research they began research at the school level first to form an idea about the incidence of the topic to be explored and to see if it was a common problem. Here, the students discovered that while it wasn’t an issue for our students or teachers, it was an issue within our school community and affected many family members and friends. This research was conducted using surveys. The surveys were handed out during tutorial class and also in SPHE lessons. Teachers were very facilitating here. A link to the survey online was provided on the group’s Facebook page and on their website also. The students also created a survey for local business owners where the questioned differed to those asked in school, here the focus was on asking business owners if their businesses were accessible.  The students were privileged to work with Co-Action, a West Cork Disability Service, with whom they conducted interviews and handed out surveys to staff also. Students organised interviews and gave questionnaires to disabled drivers and wheelchair users and as part of their research they also audited the school with the assistance of the Irish Wheelchair Association. Each group member would agree that people and organisations were very giving of their time, and answered many questions which all helped the students conduct such thorough research. 

Why we were passionate about the project

This extract from Disability Accessibilities Project Report shows clearly the passion that existed within the group for the topic in question.

‘We all have someone close to us who has a disability so we all feel really strongly about the cause. We feel that these people that struggle, but persevere to do the simplest things in life, deserve more than to be pushed to the side and nearly forgotten about. We all really want to help these people that unfortunately have a disability. We really do empathise with these people struggling through everyday life with their disability. It is sad really that the majority of us go through life without realising that some people may struggle to do some of the simplest things like walking or getting places and we wanted to change this. We want to make people realise that these people are not different to us- they have the same rights as us they may have different needs but that shouldn’t change the way we respect these people. We also want to see what we can do to make their life easier and see if we can make facilities better for them in our school and maybe even in the community .’

Our group dynamics

Disability Accessibility had 3 girls and 6 boys in the group. A mix of gender is paramount in group work. The group members were very clear and decisive about what strengths and weaknesses each member possessed. They divided up each task they had to complete into jobs and responsibilities. The member of the group that was picked to do a particular thing was selected merely on what would suit their characteristics, interests and strengths.  Although, only in Transition Year, the group members were very mature, independent and were able to delegate jobs wonderfully. This was evident when we consider the amount of work that the group completed, having only 3 YSI class periods in the school week. Each student was also involved in different projects and mini company, as well as meeting their Gaisce award criteria and attending their mainstream classes! Most of the hard work for this project was done in the students own free time, which again confirms their commitment to the project goals. They were dedicated to the project and this is one of the main reasons that the project was so successful! Any obstacles that arose for the group were tackled as a team and therefore overcome together. These innovative young students took on the challenge and all of their hard work has paid off!