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City hosts special needs Awareness Weeks

City hosts special needs Awareness Weeks

2 by Sarita RAO 4 min. 07.05.2022
May features sports, guided tours and a gospel concert to promote dialogue for an inclusive capital city
Luxembourg City gained the Access City Award from the European Commission in 2022, and has developed an accessible UNESCO heritage guided tour
Luxembourg City gained the Access City Award from the European Commission in 2022, and has developed an accessible UNESCO heritage guided tour
Photo credit: Chris Karaba

Overcoming the fear of differences and creating better dialogue between the general public and people with special needs are the goals of the city’s ninth Special Needs Awareness Weeks, ongoing until 4 June.

The campaign will include sporting demonstrations, cultural tours and the previously very popular “dinner in the dark” restaurant events. There are also information stands, activities, lectures and exhibitions.

“We hope to create a better understanding of what it means to live with special needs, what challenges these people face in everyday life, and how each and every one of us can help to achieve a more harmonious and enjoyable living together,” said Madeleine Kayser from the Ville de Luxembourg's integration and special needs service, the Intégration et besoins spécifiques (IBS).

The IBS is working with numerous specialised organisations and municipal departments that have a role in inclusion and special needs. Anyone with a special need can contact them as a first port of call, and be directed to more specialised organisations if needed, for example in the case of a rare disease, said Nico Bevilacqua of the IBS.

A city for all

“Creating a city for all is important,” says Bevilacqua, which is why Luxembourg City gained the “Access City Award 2022” from the European Commission. 

Introduction of more handicapped parking spaces in the city
Introduction of more handicapped parking spaces in the city
Archives LW

He highlights that the city has launched accessibility initiatives in public spaces including dedicated parking spots for people with reduced mobility, toilets adapted for people with special needs, a change to the layouts of sidewalks, and provision for hearing impaired people during special events.

Bevilacqua also points out that the city has low-floor buses, and that bus shelters are equipped with Bluetooth transmitters to allow visually impaired people to be informed of imminent departures. Even municipal council meetings are translated into sign language. 

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Awareness Weeks programme highlights

One of the highlights of Awareness Weeks is the sixth Inclusion Gala on 4 June, which brings together art and culture. Hosted at the city’s Conservatoire, it will involve dance, music, poetry and theatre. Tickets are free but must be booked in advance, with the event also livestreamed on the VdL website.

There will also be a gospel concert for multiple sclerosis on 30 May. Organised by MS groups in Luxembourg, Germany and France, singing was chosen because it promotes breathing, stabilises the heart and boosts the immune system for those who suffer from an auto-immune disease.

Another highlight is the Sports and Disability in Action Day at Place d’Armes on 14 May. In addition to activities, workshops and demonstrations of disability-inclusive sports, the ING Night Marathon will again feature a Roll & Run component for racers in wheelchairs.

On 30 May, there will be a presentation (also livestreamed) on the inclusive activities currently available in the city, and a review of difficulties experienced by those organising them. There’ll also be a call on youth, sports and leisure clubs to do more to include people with special needs, and a roundtable discussion organised by ZEFI asbl. You can sign up in advance for English, French, and German sign language interpreters.  

The popular Dinner in the Dark experiences are also on the Awareness Weeks agenda, with three accessible restaurants taking part – Casa Fabiano, Quadro Delizioso, and La Locanda.

Kayser says that participants found the experience “interesting and enlightening…and enabled them to realise how difficult simple activities like having a meal can be for people who lost (part of) their eyesight”. Guidance is provided by blind people during the dinner, allowing participants to share this new experience with them, and understand the dining challenges of those partially sighted or blind. 

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Accessible culture is also part of the programme, with a UNESCO walking tour for new arrivals and people with reduced mobility to discover the city’s historical heritage. The 30-minute tour in English takes place on 12 May.  Villa Vauban will also be giving tours of its permanent and temporary exhibitions for the visually or hearing impaired, with sign language interpretation available, on 15 May as part of Luxembourg Museum Days. You can find more information on both tours here.

Where to get more information

People with special needs can contact the IBS, located at 13 rue Notre Dame. It acts as a point of contact for anyone with disabilities and organisations working in this sector. It is happy to receive feedback on how it can improve services. 

More information, including other events, is posted by the VdL here. You can find out more about the participation committee and brainstorming sessions for inclusion here

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