In July 2019, INTAMT launched a new international project DISEMEX + EAST to promote the professional integration of people with disabilities into the general labour market. The word EAST in the title indicates the geographical location of the project. Our project partners come from Russia and the countries participating in the EU’s Eastern Partnership Programme – Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The project is co-funded by the Federal Foreign Office within the framework of the programme to develop cooperation with civil society in the EU Eastern Partnership countries and Russia and is a consistent continuation and extension of the other DISEMEX project – “Best Practices for the employment of people with disabilities in European countries” – also coordinated by the Academy INTAMT, in which Bulgaria, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and Turkey are already involved.

As part of the project, INTAMT has developed and implemented a four-day seminar and event programme. Among other things, visits to companies in the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia, which have already successfully implemented the integrative employment model, were planned. The organisers paid particular attention to a barrier-free environment and to ensuring comfortable conditions of stay and participation for guests with disabilities at all planned events.

The introductory lecture of the chairman of the INTAMT Academy, Professor Eduard Patrick, on the subject of social policy, protection and integration of people with disabilities in Germany enabled our project partners to gain an initial overview of the German social security system, to get to know its special features, to familiarise themselves with modern procedures and trends and in this way to prepare themselves for further in-depth seminars and visits to various organisations.

As part of the programme, the guests visited an inclusion agency for work and employment, a centre for vocational training for people with disabilities, and a company which, as an award winner in this field, offers an excellent example of successful inclusion. Both the workshops organised by the INTAMT Academy in cooperation with the state authorities on the topics: The training and employment of people with disabilities, the corresponding adaptation of jobs, legal regulations and interaction with employers, as well as visits to private companies and educational institutions offered the participants the opportunity to learn about the best examples of successful implementation of the vocational integration of people with disabilities using the example of the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia. During the subsequent visit to the international REHACARE trade fair in Düsseldorf, important thematic meetings were held with representatives of organisations active in the field of integrative employment. Here, too, our guests got to know innovative solutions and technologies for their implementation.

The highlight of the programme was the international conference “Together for inclusion”, which took place on September 19th, 2019 at the Congress Centre of the Düsseldorf Exhibition Centre (CCD Süd). More than 60 managers and specialists from public organisations representing people with disabilities from 14 countries participating in the DISEMEX and DISEMEX + East projects took part, as did experts in the field of inclusion from the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs of North Rhine-Westphalia, from inclusion agencies and leading German companies.

During the conference more than 20 presentations on the state of professional inclusion were presented with the aim to analyse in detail the key issues for the employment of people with disabilities, such as legal and regulatory aspects, vocational education and training, provision of barrier-free environment and technical equipment for workplaces as well as the particularities of interaction between self-help groups and state and local authorities. The speakers also pointed out the problematic aspects – prejudices of employers, partial lack of motivation of applicants for employment. The special role of the family in the successful social integration of people with disabilities was also highlighted.

The programme ended with a farewell speech by Professor Eduard Patrick, Chairman of the Board of the INTAMT Academy. He thanked all participants for their important contribution to the development of professional inclusion and wished them every success in reaching their goals.

The series of events in Germany allowed the circle of people directly involved in the project to be considerably expanded and the networking between the inclusion organisations to be strengthened, which undoubtedly led to the optimisation of the processes of knowledge transfer and thus enabled even better transfer of those core competences that can be seen as fundamental to the successful implementation of successful inclusion models.

By working together with experts from countries with rich experience in the field of integrative employment of their citizens, the project participants were given the opportunity to acquire comprehensive theoretical and practical knowledge. The organizers paid particular attention to the balance between theory and practice. In addition, the acquisition of new contacts will make it possible to bundle efforts. This synergy effect should make it easier for project participants to implement new integrative experiences in their countries and bring existing inclusion projects to a higher quality level.

The positive feedback both during and after the events gives reason to believe that the programme opened up new perspectives for our guests in the field of inclusive employment of people with disabilities and also provided new impetus for the development and deepening of cooperation in this field. An intensive international exchange on the latest examples of inclusive practices will certainly contribute to the sustainability of the results produced – all with the aim of significantly improving the quality of life of people with disabilities.

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