SENSES - Evaluation of an experiential school intervention to counter stereotypes towards persons with visual disabilities

According to a recent ISTAT report, there are more than 300,000 pupils with disabilities attending Italian schools. Their incidence stands at 3.6% of the total number of students and has been steadily increasing over the last few years, in part due to the greater attention paid to diagnosing and certifying disability conditions among young people and to the growing sensitivity of the education system towards the issue of social inclusion at school. In order for these students to reach their full potential, an inclusive school environment is needed, in addition to personalised support. Their peers need to acquire a good knowledge of visual impairment and to relate to their blind or visually impaired peers without prejudice, but with awareness and information. What are the most effective interventions to achieve this goal, however, remains a largely unanswered question that this project seeks to answer.

For this reason, FBK-IRVAPP is conducting, in collaboration with the ABC IRIFOR social cooperative of Trentino, the project SENSES (Seeing with new senses – evaluation of an experiential intervention to counter stereotypes towards visual disabilities in schools).

The project aims to implement and evaluate an innovative school-based intervention. About 380 students from three high schools in the province of Trento (Liceo Rosmini in Rovereto, ITT Buonarroti in Trento and Istituto Don Milani in Rovereto) will have the opportunity to learn and experience the orientation strategies and aids available to people with visual disabilities. Participants will also get experience the “snack in the dark” activity onboard the “Dark on the Road“, AbC IRIFOR’s special vehicle. Blind and visually impaired waiters will guide and interact with the students, and help them discover the power of the other senses.

The intervention will be evaluated through a randomised controlled trial involving several classes per institution. Students from these classes will be randomly assigned to the treatment and control groups. Treated students will participate in the activities described above. Attitudes and behaviours towards individuals with visual disabilities will be measured for both groups before and after the intervention. At the end of the projects, also control group students will receive the treatments.

The project is funded through a grant from Fondazione Caritro – call for funding Bando Scuola-Territorio, published in October 2019.

Date: 2020-2022

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