Evangelos (Vaggelis) Avgoulas was born in 1988 and raised in Ilion, where he currently lives and works. He is originally from Chania, Crete, while he also has Canadian citizenship.
He spent his early school life at the Center for Education and Rehabilitation for the Blind (CERB) in Kallithea. He then finished Primary School at the 35th School of Piraeus, participating in the “Helios” Pilot Education Program for integrating blind students into a regular classroom. He was the flag carrier in national student parades twice during the school year of 2005-2006 as a student of the 6th Unified Lyceum of Ilion, from where he graduated with an “Excellent” overall grade. He was one of the first grade-wise entering the Athens School of Law, earning a performance award from the State Scholarships Foundation (2007), and graduating with a GPA of 8.4/10. Today he is a postgraduate student at the University of West Attica in the Master’s Program “Educational Sciences through Innovative Technologies and Biomedical Approaches” majoring in “Inclusive Education”.
Evangelos is a lawyer with postgraduate courses in Civil Law who maintains his private office and works as a trial advocate. In November 2021, he became the first disabled lawyer in history to be elected to the new Board of Directors of the Athens Bar Association.
He is currently a scientific associate of the Metropolitan Bishop of Ilion, Acharnes, and Petroupoli, Athenagoras, for social policy issues.
Since July 2019, he has been the Accessibility Consultant in ReGeneration, the most significant training and employment program in Greece, which allows ever since new graduates with a disability to make their first steps with equality in the labor market.
From March 2017 to September 2020, he served as a Chairman of the Bo+D of the “Seaman’s Home” (Oikos Naftou) Public Law Entity, a body responsible for the insurance and social benefits of active and retired seafarers and their families.
From February 2015 to November 2016, he was a Scientific Associate of Mr. Panagiotis Kouroumplis during his term as a Minister at the Ministries of Health and of Interior and Administrative Reform.
In June 2018, he founded Me Alla Matia NPO, the aftermath of the only fully accessible news portal in Greece, meallamatia.gr. The vision of this company is to eliminate the underrepresentation of PwDs in the public sphere. Among other things, Me Alla Matia NPO implements awareness and inclusion training programs at schools, companies, organizations, and local authorities. It also realizes inclusive cultural events, the most notable being the well-known “Dinner in the Dark”, and awareness campaigns such as #SpeakUp.
During the last 13 years, he has been giving hundreds of lectures, authorized by the Ministry of Education, to students of every level nationwide. He is also included in the Register of Trainers of the Foundation for Pastoral Training of the Holy Archdiocese of Athens from 2021, implementing training for clerics through the training program “Church and vulnerable social groups”.
From September 2014 until June 2015, he served as the Chairman of the “Phaethon” Intermunicipal Center for the Prevention of Addictions and the Promotion of Psychosocial Health.
He has received many awards for his extensive social contribution by various Greek and international institutions, associations, and organizations.
Activism in the Disabled Community
Evangelos served as a Member of the Accessibility Committee for Students with Disabilities at the University of Athens for ten years, since the founding of the committee.
He has also served for a decade in various elected positions at the Panhellenic Association of the Blind. He was elected as a member of the General Council of the National Federation of the Blind from 2012 to 2019, while he was the Deputy Organizational Secretary of the Federation between 2013 and 2014.
Between 2016 and 2019, he was a BoD Member of the “Tyrtaeus” Athletic Prefectural Union for People with Disabilities, serving from the position of President too.
He was the Vice President of “Career Sign”, from 2017 – 2023, a civil non-profit company specializing in career consulting and professional guidance for PwDs.
From 2021, he is an assistant member of the Hellenic Scientific Society for Assistive Technology (EEEYT).
In 2010, he was elected as a Councilman for the Municipality of Ilion alongside Mayor Nikos Zenetos, and from 2011 until 2014, he served as Deputy Mayor for Social Policy, Life Learning, Transparency, and E-Government. This made him the youngest Deputy Mayor and the only disabled person in such a position nationwide.
From September 2014 to September 2019, he was an appointed representative of the Municipality of Ilion in the school councils of the Special Primary School and the Special High School & Lyceum, under a unanimous decision of the City Council. He is Vice President of the Association of People with Disability of Ilion, and by January of 2015 until December of 2023 he was a member of the Health and Social Welfare Committee of the Central Union of Municipalities of Greece (KEDE) by a decision taken by its BoD.
He served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Hellenic Agency for Local Development and Local Government (EETAA) from 2016 until 2019.
In the local elections in 2019, he was re-elected as local Councilman for the third term in a row. He resigned in June 2021, choosing to give a cross-party character to his new position next to the Metropolitan Bishop of Ilion, Acharnes, and Petroupoli.
In the local elections in October 2023, he was a candidate for Regional Councilor in the Western Sector of Athens, with the independent group “Attika Circle of Cooperation and Trust” lead by Giorgos Ioakeimidis, occupying the 4th place of the ballot with 2,091 votes.
He has been invited as a speaker at many conferences, the most important of which are the following:
- Delphi Economic Forum VIII on the panel “Delivering Through Diversity, Equity and Inclusion”
- TEDxAthens with the talk “Blind Love with a Head Start.”
- TEDxIonianUniversity with the talk “Through change, I see with different eyes”
- TEDxAgrinio with the talk “Rethinking the Limits”
- LIFO’s 2nd Upfront Initiative on the panel “Employment opportunities and disability: Accessibility, improvements, equal opportunities.”
- 1st Interactive Conference of S.K.E.P. under the auspices of the President of the Republic on the topic “Promoting the Acceptance of Diversity in Schools – Educational Approaches for the social inclusion of young people with Disabilities”
- International Theological Conference on: “Accessibility-Disability-Church”.
He is a founding member of the Hellenic U.S. Alumni Association, an association for past and current participants of U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs. He is also serving as a Regular Representative in Greece of VIEWS, an International Organization for the visually impaired youth.
He speaks English and French. He has published over 4,000 articles in hard-copy and online media in Greece and abroad, while regularly writing on various issues regarding education, politics, society, and more. He is one of the co-authors of “Dodeka” (Twelve), the first crowdsourced novel in Greece.
October 15 | International White Cane Safety Day
-Do you see dreams? Me too!
-Do you check the weather before you leave the house every morning to see what you will wear? Me too!
-Do you cook or play football? Me too!
-Do you upload photos to social media? Me too!
– Only that I was born blind!
October 15 of every year is International White Cane Safety Day.
The white cane is the technical aid that visually impaired people use to identify and avoid obstacles while trying to move independently and safely.
The history of the white cane started after the end of World War I in America when a movement developed to rehabilitate and reintegrate people blinded by accidents during the war. This movement was ophthalmologist Richard Hoover’s initiative. Who would have thought that, a hundred years later, in an advanced world, with scientists sending humans into space and building mind-reading robots, we blind people would still be using the same cane, trying to walk on sidewalks -if there are any sidewalks at all!- full of potholes and obstacles, still not independent, safe and self-sufficient, in a world where most people still think of the disabled as equivalent to incapable.
I don’t see, but you do: Do you want to help me? When you meet me, you can do it humanely and efficiently, remembering that:
- Only blind people carry a white cane, and that is to walk safely, not to advertise our disability, play, or beg.
- We are ordinary people, just like you. We merely don’t see. Don’t underestimate us. We grow, play, run, read, write, study, work, cry, laugh, fall in love, create, surf on the net, and chat… just like YOU!
- At the unwelcoming place we live in, I will more easily walk with you than with my cane or a guide dog. But don’t grab me by the shoulder or the arm. Let me take your arm. So I will know and feel it when you stop, turn, go up or down.
- Do not ask the person accompanying me: “What is his name?”, “What does he want to buy?”, “What food does he like?”, “Where does he want to go?”. Ask me directly. I know how to answer you! And talk to me casually, don’t change the tone of your voice for no reason.
- Don’t avoid the words “see”, “look”, or “blind”. I use them too. I see with my other senses: I touch, hear, smell, taste, perceive, and feel.
- Introduce me to our environment. I want to know who is in the classroom, at the table, or in the room with me. Talk to me when you come in. Tell me you’re leaving. Don’t let me talk in vain to someone not close to me.
- Guide my hand to a chair. Tell me where the door, toilet, and window are or if there are obstacles on the floor. I don’t want to do any damage since I can prevent it.
- Subtly help me to the table and tell me about the food on my plate. Use my plate as a “clock” and tell me what “time” each type of my food is at. Tell me: “your salad is at 6, potatoes at 12”. Tell me where my glass is so I can “see” it when needed.
- I like sporting events, the theater, and the cinema, as long as you help me understand what’s happening by describing and reading what I can’t see.
I like trips and parties; invite me to your group of friends and introduce me to your guests. I know how to behave. If I’m behind on something, help me. I don’t want your pity, but your friendship! Don’t talk about the “miraculous perception” of the blind. Don’t forget that what I learned is a consequence of hard work and effort…
- If you are curious, I will talk with you about my problem but not only about it, because it is an old story for me! I have as many other interests, hobbies, and questions as you do!
Be a friend of mine. Not a spectator.
Lawyer, Member of the Board of Directors of the Athens Bar Association
President of NPO “Me Alla Matia”
Regular Representative in Greece of the International Organization “Views” for visually impaired young people
Watch videos of the daily lives of blind people created as part of our #SpeakUp campaign
✥ October 15 | International White Cane Safety Day ⇒ www.instagram.com
✥What do blind people see? ⇒ www.tiktok.com
✥ How do blind people recognize banknotes? ⇒ www.instagram.com
✥ When eating out with your blind friend, remember the clock! ⇒ www.facebook.com/meallamatia
✥ Q&A Moving around the streets ⇒ www.tiktok.com
✥ Going to the Super Market with a guide dog ⇒ www.youtube.com
✥ What would you ask a blind person? ⇒ www.youtube.com
Life in the institution, the freezing of time, disability and us
Translation of the original text in Greek: Charalampos Skoulakis
You will be eating anything they cook for you people who don’t know, won’t ask you, and hardly even care what your favorite food is. You will be wearing underwear taken from the pile and matched based on gender and not on your aesthetics or taste. Because in such a group, you learn not to have things like taste and aesthetics. You should not have.
You will have controlled access to the Internet if you have even taught yourself how to use such new technologies. For your own sake, of course. You will only be allowed to talk on the phone at specific hours and, for better or worse, there will always be an uninvited ear somewhere nearby, discreetly monitoring you, this time for everyone’s sake!
You will be waking up at the exact scheduled time, and you will be sleeping when the informal “taps” sound. Your every meal will also be scheduled, not when you are actually hungry, but at the time stated in the timetable. Not sooner or later.
And when August comes, you will be transferred for a few days to some other place, and the same daily habits imposed on you will follow you there, identical and unaltered. The only difference is that you will be told that this transfer is called “holidays”.
As the days and nights go by, altering between “robot-programmed” states, which in their statute are characterized as “human living conditions”, the impression that “rights” and “choices” may only be privileges of the people living outside the walls and in the right side of the gate, will soon form inside your mind.
If you are lucky enough, you will study whatever you are told to (if you even do study). Do not be fooled, however, because you will never be able to develop whatever skills you may have acquired in the professional field. Thanks to the “institution label” stuck on your forehead by the —uneducated and incapable of taking care of you— society, you will never find a place in your respective field.
Every Christmas Eve, you will sing the carols about a dozen times. No matter whether you want to, it’s what is written in the schedule. You will sing to the people that decide for you without ever asking. At least you know they are not going to bother you again. You may see them again the following Christmas, them or others, little does it matter. It is all about the Christmas carols and the TV coverage; it was never about you in the first place, you don not even have a vote anyway.
Every New Year’s Eve and Easter, people will flock to the place you live. They will shower you with gifts they chose without knowing you or asking what you like. They will do it “for you”. Okay, perhaps for posting a photo on social media too, “salvation of the soul is a huge thing”, as an old Greek song used to say.
Should any of this bother you, the rule is to keep it to yourself, because “problems at home should not be known to the public”. Don’t ask “what a home is”. They will tell you that the institution we have been describing in these paragraphs is “Home”. Like a home. Only you did not choose it. And while you are aware that this is not a home, it is the only home you have, and it does not seem like you are getting another one. You try to act as if it was your home. You cannot even get in and out for a few minutes only to get some fresh air, though. For such actions, you need permission from the person in charge. And if you ever complain to them, they will tell you not to be ungrateful because there are much worse things out there. That might be true, but regardless, this thought will not make you feel better for what you (do not) have.
In this place where you live, there are people working to take care of and look after you and ensure your best interests. It is merely working professionals that take care of you. You have never experienced what it is like to be cared for without anything in return but out of true feelings. And the rest of us close our eyes, pretend we do not know. We believe in your smiles in the photographs they sell us as Christmas cards. This is convenient to believe in as a community and society in order to sleep peacefully at night.
All of the above is well-documented and cross-referenced information, typical everyday life depictions that we gathered from our research on journalistic and legal grounds in the past few months regarding the lives of people with disability in the country’s institutions.
Let alone I am describing the average situation and not the extreme cases. Some people might say I am “emotionally invested”, and that I am exaggerating. That is why they will ask me, more or less politely, to “say goodnight to Kemal”* reminding me that this world has never changed. Yet, it can and will change. We will change it.
*Refers to the song “Kemal”, composed by the legendary Manos Hadjidakis. A powerful song that refers to the immense hardships one faces when trying to change the world for the better.
This is the first disabled lawyer elected to the Board of Directors of the Athens Bar Association
Original article in Greek by dikastikon.gr
He talks about stereotypes, his dreams, and the mark he wants to leave on the Athens Bar Association and reveals the “craziest” thing he has been asked to do because of his profession.
Vaggelis Avgoulas: He is young and full of dreams, and his passion is legal science. The fact that he sees “with different eyes” not only did not prevent him from becoming a lawyer, but he also managed to become the first disabled lawyer who was elected to the Board of Directors of the Athens Bar Association (ΑΒΑ) with the Labor Party of Themis Sofos in the recent elections, making history…
His goal, as he tells us, is to help disabled citizens have access to judicial services in a way that does not exclude them, and he points out that steps must be taken in this direction while he also reveals the craziest thing that he has been asked because he is a lawyer.
Mr. Avgoulas, first of all, congratulations on your election to the Board of Directors of ABA. You wrote history since you are the first lawyer with a disability to be elected to the largest bar association in the country. How does this win of yours make you feel?
I feel that this is a collective victory and not a personal confirmation. This is because, in my electoral result, so many disabled colleagues who demand and are entitled to equal treatment within a collective, organized, institutional framework are expressed, as well as non-disabled people who think that it is too late for steps to be taken by our Bar Association for the defense of the rights of the disabled as part of human rights. This victory means great moral, scientific, and social responsibility to me. It may seem that this election result shows a symbolism at first; nevertheless, I want to immediately, and with hard, systematic work, emphasize a more profound meaning which reveals the need to bridge our legal science more with society. I thank Themis Sofos and the Labor Party for giving me this opportunity in the last ΑΒΑ elections.
What are the first five things that should be done to stop people with disabilities from being treated “hostilely” in the country’s courts? And I am not only referring to the lawyers but also to the citizens who must have access to the courts.
We should cultivate an inclusive mentality in the broader field of those who serve justice. This can begin immediately by implementing interactive, experiential, educational disability awareness seminars. I am referring to thematic workshops that will be structured accordingly and with the target group addressed: judges, lawyers, court officials, notaries, etc.
At the same time, organized planning must initiate to move all Justice-related services into a universally accessible, structured environment.
It is also necessary to rapidly expand digital citizen service procedures following the standards of digital accessibility. We cannot have the “requirement” that disabled citizens attend inaccessible courtrooms and administrative and investigative offices.
There is an urgent need to provide individualized procedures that will ensure the dignified contact of every disabled citizen with any justice service. For example, it is impermissible not to have the systematic presence of Greek Sign Language interpreters in the country’s courthouses at the same time that Greek Sign Language is now equally protected by the Constitution of Greece. Also, it is unthinkable to direct witnesses who want to facilitate the work of justice and who are wheelchair users to testify by memorandum because there is no adapted toilet in the area or the elevators are not working.
Your disability doesn’t stop you from chasing your dreams and achieving your goals, but does it stop others from “seeing” you and treating you as an equal? Truth be told: we are a society full of stereotypes. How will you try to “break” them?
For the last ten years, I have been systematically working to eliminate these stereotypes by reaching out to new generations. Children are eternally our hope for a better world, more inclusive and more accessible. That is why, with the permission of the Ministry of Education, we, a group of PwD, implement non-profit educational programs in schools nationwide. The speakers coordinate a free dialogue with the students. Together, we experientially approach the reality of disability, accessibility, and the uniqueness of each person. Children awaken as the active citizens of tomorrow and realize the value of mutual acceptance and solidarity as necessary conditions for changing attitudes and mindsets regarding diversity, disability, and social exclusion.
Connecting our universities and graduates to the labor market, especially for disabled graduates who encounter an uneducated world around them, is a big area for reform. What do you suggest;
Universities should take the initiative to organize career days every semester, connecting all their graduates with potential employers by sector. I am obviously referring to inclusive events in the context in which disabled graduates will be included. Thus, in an experiential and always organized way, employers will be trained on the one hand to eliminate stereotypes and to proceed with the hiring of disabled employees; on the other hand, the non-disabled graduates, who will also be future colleagues of the disabled, to work as a team and inclusively. More generally, universities can and should play a decisive role in removing prejudices and making everyone familiar with diversity.
When did you know you wanted to be a lawyer? What drew you to jurisprudence?
From a young age, I remember school years not starting on the same day for me compared to my non-disabled classmates. I remember claiming my books in an accessible format and the technology equipment I needed so I wouldn’t be excluded from the educational process. Growing up, I remember demanding equal treatment and not sterile caresses of understanding and support. At some point, I understood that these claims should not be individual but should be included in a collective framework for safeguarding human rights. This is how I started to serve the disability movement from the age of 18, and at the same time, I decided to study in the field that promotes, by definition, the protection and promotion of human rights: Law.
What’s the craziest thing someone has asked you because you’re a lawyer?
From my visits to the SOS Children’s Villages, I remember a little friend asking me to sue my dreams because they are slow to come true. And he’s right…
Why do you think there has been an uptick in more violent crimes lately, and how difficult is it for lawyers to handle “tough” cases?
Lawyers are people and not speech and argument-generating machines. So obviously, we are affected, and we feel and empathize. The escalation of violence, however, is much more than a legal concern. It is a sign of alienation of one person from another and, unfortunately, from our children. Violence is prevented with love, empathy, and truth. We must therefore focus on preventing violence by striking the evil at its root because if we are locked in only talking about fighting it, we will miss the forest for the trees.
On the rise of the phenomenon of femicide, we are interested in hearing your opinion on whether the term “femicide” should be legally established in Greece.
Femicide has long been established, unfortunately, as a sad reality and in a bloody way. It is a complex political and social phenomenon that should deeply concern us. Lawyers should not get caught up in wording. We should rise to the occasion by listening to society and modern, collective needs. In addition to the legislative regulations that exist for the measurement of the penalty, a discussion must be started immediately, publicly and in substance, with clear speech and genuine respect for the women who are subjected to it every day and in various ways, which will lead to modern legal “tools” to deal with this phenomenon. Those convicted of committing a crime against a victim who was selected because of race, color, national or ethnic origin, ancestry, religion, disability, sexual orientation, identity, or gender characteristics should not, I believe, receive a reduced sentence and the provisions on conditional dismissal do not apply in their case. Also, I think the above should not be able to serve their sentence in rural prisons, while their treatment in the broader penal context should also be reviewed. For example, will they be able to get leave from prison? And if so, after how long? Nonetheless, as femicides are constantly happening around us, we should activate even further to eliminate the phenomenon because a share of collective, social, and political responsibility falls to us.
You are the founder of the Non-Profit Organization “Me Alla Matia”; what prompted you to create it?
NPO “Me Alla Matia” was founded in 2018 by a group of disabled people claiming inclusion. It was implemented as an afterthought of the fully accessible news portal meallamatia.gr, which is a dynamic way of promoting the disabled. Our vision is universal accessibility and the elimination of the underrepresentation of PwD in the public sphere. For this reason, we develop a series of educational and corporate programs, collaborating with the private and public sector. At the same time, we are implementing a large campaign to acquaint the public with disability, via YouTube and social media, #SpeakUp. Disabled people are the protagonists, and our goal is to break stereotypes and prejudices.
Usually, an interview closes with our best wishes for you. Let’s twist it: what do you wish for yourself other than health, which is a wish for the whole world?
I wish every day to be able to write down something in my personal, social account so that I feel that I stand worthy of the circumstances and expectations of my colleagues, of those who respond to the call to see life “With Other Eyes” but above all of the young children with whom we interact every day.
Cultural Events not Universally Accessible should not be financed by Public Money.
Every year your municipality spends quite a large amount of money on every kind of cultural event. This amount comes directly and indirectly from all of our money. The same happens with the central administration when, e.g., the Ministry of Culture subsidizes in whole or in part various cultural events nationwide.
Today we live in the age when a theater performance, a concert, or any artistic event can have:
✥ Real-time interpretation in Greek Sign Language.
✥ Subtitles and supertitles for deaf and hard-of-hearing people.
✥ Audio description of each visual snapshot so that even visually impaired people can understand it.
✥ These events must take place in spaces accessible to people with mobility impairments, i.e., there must be ramps, an adapted toilet, parking spaces for the disabled, space for wheelchairs in the audience, etc.
✥ The informational material of each event can be printed in large letters and Braille for the visually impaired, but also, it should be accessible digitally by scanning a QR code.
✥ Seat and ticket reservations for each event must be made through a fully accessible website.
Have you seen all these in the cultural events you attend from time to time? Probably not.
And if so, definitely in a few exceptions. And you probably haven’t seen them prepared for and happening all at the same time. And yet, all of this can and should be provided simultaneously, utilizing professionals in the field. The above predictions -and many more- lead us to what we call a Universally Accessible Event. And we, disabled people, ask:
Since we are tax-paying citizens, why don’t we enjoy universally accessible events although paying for them?
On the other hand, for the non-disabled, do you accept cultural events, paid for with public money, taking place for a few and not for all?
Also, has the art world realized that is complicit by participating in, or tolerating, cultural events that de facto exclude and marginalize spectators and listeners?
Let’s not forget that a universally accessible event is not a matter for a few but for all of us: it is fundamentally a matter of education, culture, and respect for human rights. The above provisions stem from the Constitution of our country, from the UN International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which has been ratified by Greece, and also from the recently passed National Action Plan for Disability.
We, of course, understand that all these legal provisions are not applied in practice. Why?
At the same time, the Ministry of Culture now annually publishes a special call for funding of accessible events, while it is universally agreed that inclusion and accessibility are a philosophy of life and should be diffused as a whole in every manifestation of the collective living of our country.
Therefore, I propose to stop subsidizing and covering with public money cultural events that are not universally accessible. The over one million disabled people living in Greece, our friends and families, and those of you who claim to have empathy and are familiar with disability, let us all unite and demand it. Now!
The Blind Man’ s Buff, Nemo, the Seven Dwarves and other ways to talk to children about disability
Source of the original article (in Greek): amna.gr
Translation: Giorgos Lyberis
When children meet people with disability, they put some of the most imaginative questions a mind can create. Do blind people see dreams? Could someone with mobility impairment drive? Why are some dogs called guide dogs? The blind lawyer Evangelos Avgoulas and other volunteers with visual, auditory, or motor impairments meet every day school students across Greece to answer their questions and build with them a world accessible for everyone.
The educational information programs around disability are organized by the non-profit company “Me Alla Matia”, which was founded by Evangelos Avgoulas with the aim of action to assert inclusion. The programs are aimed at students of all levels and are conducted live in Attica and online throughout the rest of Greece.
It is 12 at noon, and the students of the 2nd and 4th grades of Leonidio Primary School, with the help of their teachers, log in an online platform to chat with the founder of “Me Alla Matia”.
He tells them about his favorite game… the Blind Man’s Buff: “Since I was born blind, I am a champion at this game”, he tells them laughingly. Next, he describes the obstacles people with disability face and how they overcome them. He uses as an example how he cooks as a blind person. “I was born without vision, but I “see” in my own way. When I cook, I taste the food, I smell the salt and pepper to distinguish them, I touch the shape of the ingredients I will use.”
The children ask him how he reads, writes on the computer, travels by plane, and even why his cane is white. After patiently answering each question, he adds: “Remember that if we want to communicate with people who are different, we will find a way given that we want to.”
Then he reminds the children of the cartoon fish Nemo, born disabled with one fin shorter; also of the seven dwarfs, Snow White’s friends who were born too short.
“The children are our only hope,” explains Mr. Avgoulas. “They have an innocent, inquiring curiosity. In the discussions, they do not see anything different, just many things seem inexplicable to them, and they ask to know how PwDs live,” he adds.
He underlines that his goal is to communicate that we should not stop at any challenge. “Each of my speeches closes with the observation that if a difficulty suddenly befalls us, we must find how to continue our lives, even if it seems like a mountain to climb. Life hides many pleasures, so it is not worth becoming inactive spectators,” he emphasizes.
From September 2017 until today, more than 24,000 school students have participated in the “Me Alla Matia” programs.
Juliana Bousi, a philologist with visual impairment, a specialist in special education, and a volunteer of “Me Alla Matia” meets online students of the 5th grade at the primary school of Leros. She urges them to ask whatever comes to mind, clarifying that this is not a lesson but a dialogue. “I am not embarrassed by the questions. It is part of inclusion to answer all questions,” she explains.
A student asks her about her hobbies; Mrs. Bousi replies that she likes singing and sports and describes the team sport of goalball, which uses a ball with bells. The students excitedly shout that they too often play goalball in their school playground with their younger classmates.
However, her guide dog, Yuni, is at the center of attention. Mrs. Bousi explains to them how long and expensive the training of a guide dog is and clarifies that when a dog is guiding its blind companion, the children should not feed or pet it.
Recently, the educational programs of “Me Alla Matia” were supported through a “Concert in the dark”, organized by the production company “Spoudaia Events”, with the participation of Natassa Bofiliou. In the same context of informing the public, NPO “Me Alla Matia” implements the #SpeakUp campaign featuring disabled people in short videos, which has gathered over ten million views.
The training programs are also aimed at adults: in the last two years, “Me Alla Matia” has designed and coordinated more than 60 customized training programs for companies, agencies, and municipalities and has trained over 6,000 employers and employees on disability, accessibility, and inclusion.
Among other things, it implements training for clergy and volunteers who support disabled people, focusing on the disability and the proper ways to approach it, under the auspices of the Archbishop of Athens and All of Greece, Ieronymos. An educational program on disability is also implemented at the Post-Training School of the Hellenic Police for police cadets. During this period, the training of judicial officials is also planned.
Finally, “Me Alla Matia” restarts the “Dinners in the Dark” that had stopped amid the pandemic and provides it to companies that want to organize a unique Christmas event. Participants dine in complete darkness, guided by specially trained blind and sighted waiters.
“We are increasingly using cooking to promote diversity. Our goal is to open soon a place in Athens that permanently hosts dinners in the dark and gives work to visually impaired people”, concludes Mr. Avgoulas.