Political decisions influence the lives of people with learning disabilities in the same way as they influence the lives of the general population. Moreover, when looked upon as a group, people with learning disabilities represent a percentage of the population whose life conditions are most dependent on political decisions; nevertheless, people with learning disabilities represent a group in society who are most frequently excluded from the political process.
The MOTE Project was established to address this gap and attempt to educate and encourage those with learning disabilities to become active within their countries political systems. The project was completed over a two year period. An education programme comprising of ten training units was designed, tested and published as a result and is available to download here .
The aim of the project was to educate people with learning disabilities about their political rights and to encourage people with learning disabilities to form and express an informed opinion / decision during local, national and European elections and referenda. Overall objectives of the project were broken down as follows:
· To investigate the extent to which adults with learning disabilities participate in the political process in the six member states (Italy, Ireland, Denmark, Malta, Hungary and Spain).
· To investigate the European/national/local citizenship awareness of the target group and to identify examples of good practice that, have already been experimented in the same field, with this or other target groups.
· To design, develop and test an educational programme (on people with learning disabilities and professionals together) comprising two modules containing ten educational units.
· To set up a European pilot group of adults with learning disabilities who will meet three times over the course of the project and contribute to the design and testing of project outcomes.
· To launch an awareness raising campaign, utilising specific tools to address people with learning disabilities, their families, professionals, decision makers, and political parties.
· To foster the dissemination and exploitation of results to as many people with learning disabilities as possible, through setting up a permanent monitoring committee managed by the project partners.
Sixteen professionals and 120 adults with learning disability participated in the project. Disability organisations and universities across six European countries with combined expertise in political science, disability rights, sociology, human rights law, language accessibility (speech & language) teaching and psychology participated in the My Opinion, My Vote Project. The main outcomes of the project were
· An education programme comprising of ten training units was designed, tested and published available to download here . Best practice examples of teaching methodologies with people with learning disabilities are provided.
· Brochures, posters and banners for awareness raising campaigns.
· Guidelines for making political manifestos more user friendly (easy to read standards) and examples of political platforms of the 5 main European groups already translated into an easy-to-read format.
· A qualitative interviewsurvey concluded that the MOTE education programme provided an effective and language accessible method for teaching people with learning disabilities about politics.
‘My Opinion My Vote’ has since reached approximately 1000 people with learning disability and 4000 facilitators (carers, professionals and decision makers).
Project Team: Dr. Paola Vulterini (Project Manager), Gráinne Murphy (DSI), Pat Clarke (DSI), May Gannon (DSI), Anna Contardi (AIPD), Carlotta Leonori (AIPD), Laura Krauel (AURA), Davis Simo’ Pinatella (Ramon Llull University, Spain), Camilla Jydebjerg & Tina Mou Jakobsen (Denmark), Louisa Grech & Elena Tanti Burlo (Malta).
A set of six case studies was undertaken - each focusing on a particular primary school in the greater metropolitan area of Auckland, New Zealand. In each school, a child at high-risk for mild intellectual disability had been identified via screening procedures, and was receiving an inclusive classroom program. Each child had been perceived by his/her teacher as having special educational needs, and in five of the six cases the teachers had attempted to modify their programs to provide individualized instruction for the high-risk children, while in the remaining case no such attempt had been made. All six children had made very poor academic progress, and five of the six children were poorly accepted socially by their classmates. In brief, none of the children appeared to be receiving an educational program which could be said to be accommodating their special educational needs, as perceived by their teachers. Both teachers and parents expressed considerable concern about the children's lack of progress, and all maintained that the children required more intensive special educational help than their current inclusive programs were providing. The results are discussed in terms of current New Zealand special educational policies and resourcing procedures, and the likelihood that many New Zealand children with mild intellectual disability may not be receiving appropriate special educational provisions within current inclusive programs.