A better attitude toward being different

Photo: Alexandra Ženatá
friday 26. january 2018, 10:44 - Text: Martin Višňa

Few people know it, but Czechia is one of the world’s best when it comes to the number of Paralympic School Days held – educational programmes aimed at informing children about physical disabilities and Paralympic sports. A driving force in that direction are the Adapted Physical Activities (APA) at the UP Faculty of Physical Culture Centre, which for the past ten years now has been trying to improve attitudes towards special needs individuals.

Olomouc experts were there at the start of the International Paralympic Committee educational programme in 2005, and since then have organised more than 200 days, with 33,000 youths participating. “And everything in relative silence, whereas in other states national Paralympic committees have taken over, famous personalities take part in the Games, and Paralympics are the themes of doctoral dissertations,” Ondřej Ješina, Head of the APA Centre, points out.

Stories, more than medals

Of course the impact on the participants is what is most important. During Paralympic School Day they can try games in wheelchairs, physical activities for vision impaired, and other activities like boccia or athletic disciplines for the physically impaired. Part of the event is a talk with sportspeople with disabilities, such as Eva Kacanu, who is in a wheelchair.

“We had a talk at a school with a guy who fell off a cliff when he was seventeen and ended up in a wheelchair, during a time when the morale for our programme was at a low. The students weren’t very interested, until they asked what it was like to live life in a wheelchair. He said that he had been in wheelchair for only three years and before that he had been quite the rascal. Once they began to deal with an issue which fundamentally affected seventeen-year-olds, both the climate and the thinking of those taking part changed immediately. And that has a greater value than any number of medals,” remembers Ješina.

Games for pre-schoolers and expeditions

The Paralympic School Day focusses on students aged 8–18, whereas the APA Centre has a wider scope. A programme for pre-schoolers called pAPA Plays arose from work done by student Veronika Chvojková for her Bachelor’s thesis. The APA Centre with its partners also runs Monoski Days and takes part in educational expedition projects, where students arrange extraordinary travel and sport experiences for people with disabilities. They also run a rental service for sport-compensation aids, the largest in Czechia. And it will continue to grow, because the Centre’s activities greatly support the current three-year programme “Support for Education of Children, Pupils and Students through Equal Access in the Area of Basic Physical Fitness”.