To increase the quality of life of children with visual impairments through their participation in school and leisure-time physical activities is a common goal of the Centre for Adapted Physical Activities (APA) at the UP Faculty of Physical Culture and the Světluška [Firefly] project of the Czech Radio Foundation. Thanks to this cooperation, consultants will be available to pupils, their teachers, and parents who will introduce to them various support measures and movement activities adapted for people with visual impairments.
APA consultants for schoolchildren and students with visual or combined impairments will be working in five Czech regions – the South Bohemian, South Moravian, Moravian-Silesian, Olomouc and Ústí nad Labem regions – as well as in the capital city of Prague, with an overlap to the Central Bohemian region. The two-year project is meant to provide intensive support to up to 90 pupils, however counselling services will be provided to each individual out of the hundreds of such children in each region.
“We want them to develop habits leading to a healthy and active lifestyle, which is a positive prerequisite for holistic health and thus a happier life. Developing motor skills is a continuous activity, so our aim will be for the consultants to see ‘their’ pupils and work with them regularly, at least once a month. We anticipate that initially some pupils or their parents will be concerned about the risks of engaging in physical activities and questioning their benefits for the visually impaired. In some respects, it may not be an easy job for the consultants, as they also have to process the necessary administration, travel to the pupils, and attend regular meetings to share their experiences,” said Ondřej Ješina, head of the APA Centre, adding that one-time events with a broader scope of interests are also being planned, such as ski weekends for families and various trips.
Similarly, other interested parties will also be able to benefit from the counselling on how to involve pupils with visual impairments in physical activities and promote their equal access to education. The activities of the project are intended to enhance the competences of teachers, raise awareness among parents and peers, and positively influence public attitudes towards supporting the participation of people with visual impairments in physical and leisure-time activities in the widest possible context.
The APA Centre has abundant experience in promoting equal access to education for pupils with impairments, disadvantages, and other special needs through physical activities. One of them was a nationwide project supported by the Czech Ministry of Education and implemented before the Covid-19 pandemic, thanks to which agreement APA managed to anchor its consultancy in the priorities and strategic documentation of the Olomouc Region.
“We are pleased that the activities we are further developing in our region have resonated in other regions to such an extent that even three years after the end of our nationwide project, they are still asking for APA-trained staff in their region. And we are very happy that Světluška [‘Firefly’], or rather the Czech Radio Foundation, has adopted this mission, that their approach is systemic, and that they are willing to invest in this obviously meaningful project as the first foundation ever,” added Ješina.
The Czech Radio Foundation has many years of experience in supporting people with visual impairments via the Světluška project. “We at Světluška decided to systemically support the physical activities and sports of children and young people with visual impairments for several reasons. Children and young people with any handicap must not be excluded from physical education classes, and if the barrier is the lack of expertise and motivation on the part of teachers and their assistants, then we must provide them with both. Physical activities and sports are one of the paths to an independent and meaningful life, a life in which the impaired persons themselves hold the reins. And if there is a barrier to their participation in these activities, let’s build a system that will intervene in time and direct and accompany these persons from the beginning,” said Gabriela Drastichová, director of the foundation.
“Peer groups, teams, sports duos are all about relationships, about camaraderie, about mutual cohesion. Shared experiences in leisure sports create opportunities for development, healthy competition, and most importantly, create memories for a lifetime. And if fear of the unknown is a barrier to greater involvement of children and young people with visual impairments in sports and leisure activities in general, let’s accompany them as running and skiing guides and pilot bikers. We are extremely excited to work with the APA Centre because we are united by a common goal and determination not to be mere observers but those who make things possible,” added the director.
The two-year project of the APA Centre supported by the Světluška public collection called Systemic Support for Equal Education and Participation in Leisure Activities of Children, Pupils, and Students with Visual Impairments in the Area of Physical Literacy started at the beginning of 2024. Currently, the selection procedures for filling the positions of APA consultants in the cooperating regions are being prepared. After the necessary training and introduction, their work is expected to start in June this year, and more intensively with the start of the new school year.
The APA Centre at the Department of Adapted Physical Activities, Palacký University Olomouc Faculty of Physical Therapy, has been connecting the academic environment with the practice in the field of physical activities of people with impairments and disadvantages since 2007. Its most important activities include the creation of conditions for the creation of the position of APA consultant, the development of methodologies for supporting measures in physical education in schools, as well as various educational, popularisation, and sports events, such as the Paralympics School Day. The centre also operates a sports equipment rental service, the largest of its kind in the Czech Republic. For more information, see www.apa.upol.cz.
The Czech Radio Foundation helps to create an environment and conditions for the full development of people and their abilities, regardless of their impairments and disadvantages. It fulfils its mission through its long-term projects Světluška [Firefly] and Ježíškova vnoučata [Grandchildren of the Infant Jesus] and one-off collections that gives help where needed. Světluška has been helping people with severe visual impairments since 2003, both financially and by organising awareness-raising and experiential activities for donors. Popular events include the Night Runs for Firefly, the traditional Light for the Firefly concert, and visits to the POTMĚ Café [Café in the Dark], an extraordinary visual experience designed not only for coffee lovers. For more information, please visit nadacnifond.rozhlas.cz and svetluska.rozhlas.cz.