As a person generally interested in the rights of people with disabilities, Panourgias’ biggest inspiration for his Action Project remains a talk on the inclusion of people with disabilities during the Berlin Fellowship Program in 2017.
It has been more than 10 years since the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD) was signed. However, there remains a lack of full and equal involvement of persons with disabilities in policy and decision making.
At the same time, Panourgias observed a tendency in public discourse to understand disability only in terms of the financial support that a person receives, especially after the global financial crisis, which hit Greece especially hard. However, topics such as access to accommodation, mainstream education, the labor market, or quality health service were neglected; and poverty sometimes was the outcome of disability-based discrimination. Additionally, he continues to see a general lack of information on the rights of people with disabilities.
„I am not disabled. I am super-abled.“
The event Panourgias organized was the first event in Greece that gave people with disabilities a general overview of their rights in the European Union along with the UNCRPD. The notion of Independent Living and personal assistance were clearly explained and critically discussed. Moreover, Humanity in Action and its mission were presented to the attendees. Finally, the European Union Directive on the Accessibility of the Websites was underlined and the Asia Europe Foundation Summer University opportunity was explained to the attendees. After the session the attendees not only had a better understanding of their rights, but had also learned about future opportunities to explore, such as the Humanity in Action Fellowship.
After attempts of cooperating with the local municipality to organize the event, Panourgias decided to partner up with I-living. PanourgiasI was in charge of the Sign Language Interpretation, locating the venue and organizing the program.
“It has been a month long process but it definitely helped me improve my organizational skills along with my ability to think outside of the box to solve problems and, most important of all, to learn more about disability issue.”
Panourgias organized the event around the needs of the participants and was able to secure an accessible space for free from the Planetarium of Athens. The members of the movement Emancipation Movement for the Disabled „Zero Tolerance“ then supported the event by providing sign language interpretation as well as lip-reading for the mixed-abled audience.
With the assistance of I-living, Panourgias managed to recruit a diverse quorum of speakers, representing Independent Living in Greece, as well as a psychologist, a lawyer and a filmmaker.
The biggest challenge Panourgias faced when organizing his conference was finding the right partners who share the same vision and values. When implementing the project he found it helpful to concentrate on the target first, and to then look for the right partners to cooperate.
View a Presentation of the project here.