Mount Everest: Deaf mountaineers conquer the world’s highest peak

Scott Lehmann and Shayna Unger are a deaf couple who run a channel on YouTube. What makes this channel unique is the recording of their experiences of being deaf and climbing the highest peaks of mountains around the world, as reported by CNN.

Their passion for what they do made them the first deaf couple in the world to successfully climb Mount Everest. During their journey, something unexpected happened: they met the second deaf person to reach the summit of this mountain, Hawari Hashim from Malaysia, who achieved this feat on May 18th. Notably, the first person to accomplish this was the Japanese climber Satoshi Tamura in 2016.

ndeed, the three of them achieved this accomplishment a few years after the Nepal Supreme Court lifted the ban on climbing the highest mountain in the Himalayas. This decision led to prideful celebrations among the global Deaf community.

The chronicle of the ban

In 2017, Nepal announced that it would no longer issue climbing permits to individuals with disabilities, including deaf climbers. Some argued that this decision would create more work for the Sherpas, who assist climbers on their ascent.

This ban sparked reactions among all mountaineers with disabilities. Among them was Hari Budha Magar, born in Nepal, who lost both his legs when he stepped on a landmine while serving in Afghanistan. He was one of the pioneers who fought for the lifting of the ban. Eventually, the ban was lifted in 2018.

Magar successfully summited Mount Everest on May 19th, becoming the first double above-the-knee amputee to complete the ascent.

The experience of the couple Scott Lehmann and Shayna Unger

The environmental conditions prevailing on Everest – strong winds, swirling snow, darkness – make communication difficult for anyone, whether they are deaf or not.

The couple uses the Big, a voice-to-text translation app, to facilitate communication with locals, guides, and other climbers. However, the signal at high altitude is very poor. Additionally, typing becomes challenging at 25,000 feet, as the extremely low temperatures require them to remove their gloves to use the touchscreen.

In the end, Unger and Lehmann decided to assume that no technology would work for them on Everest and started learning to communicate as much as possible without it. They collaborated with the Sherpas, agreeing to use certain visual cues and signals to be able to communicate. Ultimately, they were able to communicate without relying on the app.

“There were many different obstacles we had to overcome to reach Everest, so when we reached the summit, we felt like we defied the odds,” says Unger. “We were truly proud of ourselves,” she adds.

It is noted that near the summit, Lehmann’s mask filled with ice, and she started to panic. However, she managed to communicate with the Sherpa who was with them, and he quickly fixed the mask, bringing the group back on track.

Such examples prove that nothing in life is impossible.

Source: News 24/7

Unheard of but Cypriot – Vehicle with mobile cameras in disabled parking area (IMAGE).

Unprecedented but Cypriot – Vehicle with mobile cameras in a parking space for people with disabilities (PHOTO). The photo, which was posted on social media by Mr. Dimitris Lambrianides, President of the Cyprus Paraplegic Organization, has been circulating on the internet in recent hours. As you can see in the following photo, the operator of the van with mobile cameras parked in a parking space designated for disabled individuals. Specifically, in his post, Mr. Lambrianides mentions: “This photo was sent to me today. If anyone knows the person who took it, please ask them to go to the nearest police station and make a complaint!”

Source: omega live

NGOs – Myths and Realities

The establishment of a legislative framework for institutionalized, regular dialogue between non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the state, for a strong civil society in Cyprus, meaning a potent organized social action of groups or individuals for the common good, is the primary goal of the Civil Society Advocates Foundation, as stated by its president, Eleni Karayianni, to “Φ” newspaper. In her message stressing the need for dialogue and cooperation, Dr. Anastasia Michaelidou Kamenu, the head of the Department of Associations, Clubs, and SMEs at the Ministry of Interior, promptly expressed her willingness to comment on the views and positions of Civil Society Advocates as presented in a recent document titled “10 Myths and Realities about Non-Governmental Organizations” released by the Foundation.

The document was prepared within the framework of the European project “For a Strong Civil Society: Practicing Politics and Strengthening Skills for the Empowerment of Civil Society” in Cyprus. The project is funded by the Active Citizens Fund Cyprus program, which is financed by Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway.

It should be noted that the Civil Society Advocates group has been registered as a Foundation since 2018, in accordance with the relevant law of 2017 for Associations and Foundations. As emphasized by Ms. Eleni Karayianni, the group’s president, they aim to contribute to the empowerment of civil society organizations and the improvement of the framework in which they operate through their voluntary actions. The founding members of the group, along with President Eleni Karayianni, are Marina Vasilara as Vice President, Maria Tsiarta as Secretary, and Klairi Papazoglou as Treasurer.

Differences, mode of operation, and independence

As emphasized by Eleni Karayianni, non-governmental organizations, meaning the organized civil society, play a crucial role in a society, as they represent the voice of independent active citizens and engage in various fields, providing services, programs, and policy recommendations. However, there are many myths, misunderstandings, and misconceptions about NGOs, some of which are addressed in this document, while also presenting their role and significance in a contemporary society.

Myth 1: There is no difference between the terms “non-governmental organization” (NGO), “charitable organization,” and “civil society.”

Reality: While there are some commonalities, these terms are not synonymous. There is a general impression that NGOs mean “Non-Profit Organizations” and that these organizations mainly consist of charitable organizations. However, the acronym NGO stands for “Non-Governmental Organization” in English and “Μη Κυβερνητική Οργάνωση” in Greek. NGOs are inherently non-profit and independent of government services and structures. Charitable organizations are NGOs that, due to their nature, are approved by the Ministry of Finance. Not all NGOs are charitable organizations. All NGOs are part of civil society (Κοινωνία των Πολιτών – ΚτΠ), a term that has now been established and refers to all forms of social action carried out by individuals or groups not connected to the government or governed by it. Often, politicians, journalists, and ordinary citizens refer to “civil society” when they want to refer to “the general public” or even to voters, indicating that there is still a long way to go for a proper understanding of what civil society truly means and to use the term correctly in Cyprus.

Myth 2: All non-governmental organizations operate under the same regulations and regime.

Reality: NGOs have different legal forms in Cyprus. They can be Associations, based on their members, with at least 20 members and a five-member Board of Directors. They can be Foundations with a three-member Board of Directors but without members. They can be Unions/Federations, where their members are other legal entities, i.e., other NGOs. Finally, they can be Non-Profit Companies and Beneficiary Foundations. This translates into different modes of administration and decision-making, as well as different legal obligations.

Myth 3: Non-governmental organizations do the same work as the government, so why should they exist?

Reality: NGOs contribute to the well-being of society and strengthen pluralism and democracy, but they never replace the government. Many NGOs provide services to citizens that are not adequately offered by public services, such as social benefits, healthcare, and specialized support for specific groups (e.g., people with disabilities). NGOs are independent entities that often pressure the government to improve the well-being of society while offering specialized services and expertise. They also play a significant role in important social and political issues, where an independent voice is necessary, such as human rights, poverty reduction, gender equality, environmental protection, as well as cultural and artistic matters. In every modern state, efforts are made to empower the independent voice and action of NGOs, and there is often dialogue and close collaboration between the state and these organizations in shaping policies. In Cyprus, there is still progress to be made in this area.

Myth 4: Non-governmental organizations should rely on volunteering and not employ people.

Reality: Although most NGOs in Cyprus rely solely on volunteers, it is commonly accepted that employing staff enhances an organization’s ability to achieve its long-term goals. Employing people does not mean that an organization ceases to be non-profit. Furthermore, when an organization employs staff, it has the flexibility to offer even more specialized services to the public, contributing to a more effective implementation of its goals.

Financial oversight, funding, and transparency

Myth 5: Non-governmental organizations make significant profits, and there is no financial oversight.

Reality: By law, NGOs are entitled to have a surplus in their accounts, which, however, should be used solely for their purposes. What they are not allowed to do, as it would result in losing their non-profit status, is to distribute profits to their members or Board of Directors. All registered NGOs have a legal obligation to submit annual reports, including their financial accounts. Those who fail to meet these obligations can be removed from the relevant registers.

Myth 6: Non-governmental organizations secure significant funding from Cyprus and abroad.

Reality: The majority of NGOs rely heavily on volunteerism and contributions. Only a small number of organizations are able to obtain and utilize funding, either from the Republic of Cyprus or from highly competitive funding programs to support their actions. In the case of funded NGOs, their financials are strictly monitored to ensure the funds are used for the intended purposes. Moreover, all NGOs are now required by law to submit annual financial reports and, in many cases, audited accounts. The government and international organizations stress the need for transparency and accountability both in the operation of NGOs and the use of their financial resources.

Myth 7: Non-governmental organizations operate unchecked, and their role in Cyprus is suspicious.

Reality: NGOs often engage in political pressure and criticism on various issues, which can make them targets on different levels. However, the legal framework ensures sufficient transparency and control. Reports from Moneyval in 2019 and 2022 on NGOs in Cyprus indicated that the government’s control measures may discourage or hinder NGOs, as all organizations are treated as “high risk.” These reports recommend the establishment of proportional and objective risk criteria, along with close cooperation between organizations and the government to develop good practices. Our position is that the government’s practices may pose a risk of stifling NGOs and violating their rights.

Myth 8: Foreign governments and organizations fund NGOs to promote their own interests.

Reality: NGOs seek funding from both local and international sources for their programs. Funding is provided based on competitive criteria, and the financial accounts of NGOs receiving funds are submitted annually to the relevant authorities, providing information about their objectives, funding sources, and amounts. There is no evidence to support the claim that NGOs use their funds for purposes other than their intended activities.

Myth 9: Many NGOs are funded by organizations that also finance terrorism and/or launder “dirty” money.

Reality: To address this concern, both foreign and Cypriot governments have increased their scrutiny of NGOs. International organizations stress that control measures must be proportionate to the type of activities each organization conducts. The latest Moneyval reports for NGOs in Cyprus showed that the government’s control measures might discourage or hinder NGOs, as they are all treated as “high risk.” The reports recommend establishing proportional and objective risk criteria, as well as close cooperation between organizations and the government to develop good practices. Our position is that the government’s practices may pose a risk of stifling NGOs and violating their rights.

Myth 10: There are too many NGOs in Cyprus compared to our population.

Reality: The operation of NGOs is protected by the human right to associate, recognizing their contribution to the common good. Internationally, there are no criteria determining the number of NGOs in a country relative to its population. Furthermore, this right is protected by Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (which Cyprus has ratified), as well as other international agreements and conventions that Cyprus has ratified.

Friendly environment and non-profit organizations

“I agree with what has been mentioned in the ‘Myths 9 and 10’ by the Civil Society Advocates Foundation,” states Dr. Anastasia Michaelidou Kamenu, Director of Associations, Foundations, and SMEs at the Ministry of Interior, in her note to ‘F’ newspaper. Regarding ‘Myth 1,’ she emphasizes the following: “I would start by saying that I consider the term ‘non-profit’ more representative of these organizations since their core existence is based on ‘not seeking financial gain.’ I do not agree with those who claim that NGOs can engage heavily in profit-seeking activities to support their purposes. Revenues should come from auxiliary activities; otherwise, NGOs would turn into companies that merely express their social programs through activities known as ‘Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).’ On the contrary, unlike companies that aim for profits for their shareholders/owners but also demonstrate sensitivity through CSR programs, NGOs allocate their resources and efforts to non-profit but beneficial activities and may occasionally support their work with some income-generating activities. The purposes of non-profit organizations can be philanthropic, activist, environmental, social, and other beneficial goals.”

Regarding ‘Myth 2,’ she highlights that “there are indeed different types of non-profit organizations.” Regarding ‘Myth 3,’ she notes: “Non-profit organizations often assist the actions of the state. Other times NGOs act as the voice that discusses with government bodies or authorities, or they challenge certain decisions. In one way or another, they are an essential part of society and have a crucial role to play. Therefore, the state, in general, and the government should facilitate their action, allowing them to operate in a friendly environment.” Regarding ‘Myth 4,’ she underlines that “going back to the concept of ‘non-profit,’ NGOs indeed heavily rely on the action of volunteers. However, they can also employ staff, provided that this personnel performs beneficial activities based on the organization’s goals. In the legislation, Foundations are prohibited from paying salaries to their Board members. Therefore, we have purely voluntary action in this case. The same does not apply to Associations, although this is desirable. Generally, when the Ministry recognizes that the salary expense is a significant part of an NGO’s expenditures, it may consider that there is a business entity beneath the NGO’s facade. This is not absolute, but an indication.”

The very important role of NGOs

Regarding ‘Myth 5,’ she states that “a non-profit organization cannot have a surplus for several years. This could indicate that something may not be going well and that we might be talking about ‘profit-seeking.’ Logically, a non-profit organization does not want to have a surplus, as it could immediately use it to expand its beneficial actions. There are, of course, cases where savings help build a project over a few years, such as a medical center. Everything is related to the goals.”

Regarding ‘Myth 6,’ she notes that “many government departments provide grants to NGOs, and NGOs certainly rely on the contributions of their volunteers and donors. As the Ministry of Interior, we are responsible for the licensing of fundraising events. Fundraising events are one way for NGOs to collect funds to support their specific purposes.” Regarding ‘Myth 7,’ she observes that “there are NGOs worldwide that play a very significant role, and there are NGOs that use the legal environment offered to them to engage in illegal or criminal activities. We must consider this normal and everyone should operate based on this reality. Controls are, therefore, necessary. “Finally, commenting on ‘Myth 8,’ she states that “funding NGOs through European programs is a very healthy way of functioning. On the other hand, the movement of capital abroad should take place through the banking system of the countries of origin and destination of the money. Not only NGOs can be used as vehicles for financing terrorism and money laundering, but also companies, trusts, etc. That is why NGOs, as legal entities, have obligations to maintain a register of their actual beneficiaries, which, in this case, are the members of the Board of Directors, but also significant donors or beneficiaries.”

Source: Philenews

Luxembourg: An Accessible City for Everyone!

Author: Ablebook

A city is considered accessible when all its residents can live in it and use all objects and services without problems. Luxembourg was awarded as the accessible city of Europe in 2022! Which city will be awarded this year? Of course, the focus is not on the award itself but on the proper practices adopted by urban centers that benefit their citizens.

The EU Access City Award is an award presented annually to cities that make efforts to become accessible and is organized by the European Commission. The award’s inception was in 2010, and it serves as a reminder to cities about the importance of being accessible to everyone. The awarded cities and countries implement “designs for all.” The EU Access City Award provides European cities the opportunity to showcase their efforts in becoming accessible to all.

Specifically, Luxembourg city, built on a rocky terrain with steep cliffs and deep valleys, faces challenges in terms of accessibility due to its hilly and narrow roads. However, it won the award because it constantly designs and works on making its infrastructure and services accessible to all citizens and visitors in various aspects such as employment, education, culture, tourism, recreation, and transportation. The city’s philosophy is to plan and implement measures, projects, and infrastructure in direct consultation with the citizens affected by them.

Measures of an accessible city:

Measures of an accessible city include, among others, free public transportation, adaptations of existing infrastructure to enable barrier-free movement and access for all citizens, and the creation of new projects with all necessary features. For instance, Bluetooth is installed in public transportation to serve people with visual impairments, and new digital technologies provide useful information such as the distance to the next station, etc. Additionally, an annual event called “Dinner in the Dark” is organized to raise awareness about the experiences and needs of people with visual impairments.

Indeed, in Finland, people with disabilities have the opportunity to communicate with architects of new projects in advance and describe their needs, ensuring that these needs are taken into consideration from the outset. Additionally, a straightforward and logical measure is the provision of sign language interpretation during municipal council sessions.

All these measures, whether simple or complex, expensive or inexpensive, are crucial for all residents of a city, especially for people with disabilities, specific needs, and the elderly. In many of our cities in Cyprus, transportation and related information are not accessible to these individuals, which means they cannot fully participate in the community like other residents.

These cities can serve as role models for our own cities, inspiring individuals with a vision in local governance to study and adapt their policies to meet the needs of their communities. While each city’s needs may differ, it is essential to listen to the needs of all citizens to make our cities accessible to everyone.

To reiterate, a city is considered accessible when all its residents can live in it and use all objects and services without problems. Luxembourg was awarded as the accessible city of Europe in 2022!

Source: European CommissionEurocitiesEU Social,,

Google announces new accessibility features on Android, including Live Caption on tablets.

Google celebrated the Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) by unveiling a range of new accessibility features for its products and services. These features aim to make Google’s products more accessible to people with disabilities.

Live Captions on more devices, including Android tablets

One of the most significant new accessibility features is the addition of Live Caption to more Android devices. Live Caption provides real-time subtitles for audio content, such as videos, podcasts, and phone calls. This can be incredibly beneficial for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well as those living in noisy environments.

Starting from this summer, Google will expand the availability of Live Caption to more Android devices, including Android tablets, by adding a new captioning frame. Additionally, you will be able to use Live Captions with phone calls, allowing you to type your response and have it read out at the other end. This feature is currently available on the latest Pixel devices but will soon be extended to Pixel 4, Pixel 5, and additional Android devices, like Samsung Galaxy phones.

Google Lookout for digital images

To assist the blind and visually impaired community, Google is also improving Lookout, an app that uses your device’s camera to scan an object and then uses artificial intelligence to analyze and describe what it sees. Now, this technology will also work for describing digital images, a task that has been reliant on alternative text added to an image during uploads. Unfortunately, not everyone adds alternative text to images they upload online.

This feature will be a part of the Lookout app and will be called “Image Question and Answer Mode.” Besides image recognition, Lookout will also be able to answer questions related to the image. This specific feature is currently in closed beta, but Google says it will be available to more users soon.

Find accessible places with Google Maps  

Google Maps is also being updated to help people with disabilities find accessible locations more easily. Maps will now show accessible destinations by default, making it easier for users to locate businesses and other sites that are wheelchair-accessible, offer accessible parking spaces, and other vital features for people with disabilities.

Improved text-to-speech conversion on Wear OS

With Wear OS 4 on the horizon, Google is introducing new text-to-speech capabilities that promise to be faster and more reliable.

Avoid URL typos with Chrome

Chrome on computers will now be able to detect when you are typing an incorrect URL and provide suggestions for what the correct URL could be. This will benefit individuals with dyslexia or any language-related disabilities, as well as those prone to typos.

Additionally, TalkBack on Chrome for Android recently gained new functionality, allowing users to easily manage and organize their browser tabs through a tab grid, bulk actions, and rearrangement features.

All these updates demonstrate Google’s commitment to making the digital world more accessible. Even as an able-bodied person, I can see myself using some of these features for my benefit, and it’s very encouraging to know that such capabilities will continue to improve and advance in the future.

Source: Published on May 30, 2023, by “Με Άλλα Μάτια” (Through Different Eyes) in Technology Developments

The children of the Summer School at the Technological University of Cyprus (TΕΠΑΚ) stepped into the shoes of people with disabilities (PWDs)

Event aiming to inform and raise awareness about the fundamental right of people with disabilities (PWD) to participate equally in all aspects of life, as well as the elimination of stereotypes, prejudices, and social exclusion of these individuals, organized by the Technological University of Cyprus (TUC) and the Center for Education and Rehabilitation “EXIST.”

The event took place today, Tuesday, July 25, 2023, as part of the Summer School of the Technological University of Cyprus (TEPAC), which hosts children of university employees, aged 5 to 13 years old.

The children had the opportunity to step into the shoes of people with disabilities (PWD) and participate in a series of experiential activities, sports events, and interactive games aimed at understanding and familiarizing themselves with the values of mutual respect, inclusion, equality, and respect for diversity. These are the values that the Technological University of Cyprus (TUC) promotes and advocates through its actions and policies.

These activities helped the children, who participated enthusiastically, to understand the daily life from the perspective of a person with a disability and the challenges they face, sending the message that we can coexist and move forward together without discrimination and obstacles against people with disabilities, who are an integral part of our society.

The event also highlighted the recognition of the skills, abilities, and qualifications of people with disabilities and emphasized the need for accepting their rights, ensuring their accessibility to all spaces, and, in general, building a more inclusive society for everyone.

Source :

Markou: “I want a new Pan-Cyprian record – I learned from disability and created new dreams”

She is a dynamic woman who is not afraid of challenges and knows well how to turn things around and overcome every obstacle to achieve her goal. An accident at the age of 16 created new circumstances in her life. She took her time and with a warm smile, readjusted her dreams and became an example for those who say ‘I can’t.’

Maria Markou is a Paralympian in bench press weightlifting. She managed to turn her dream into reality and strives to be a source of inspiration, proving to people with disabilities that they are equal members of society.

The 30-year-old athlete spoke to about her gold medals at the Tbilisi World Championships, her participation in the Paralympic Games in Tokyo, and her future goals. She unraveled the path she has taken so far, the thoughts she had after the accident that changed her life, and explained how she started anew on two wheels.

Furthermore, she mentioned her role as the first female bench press weightlifter in Cyprus, her Greek coach Pyrros Dimas, and Marilyn Monroe as her role models. Lastly, she touched upon the topic of daily life and accessibility for people with disabilities, emphasizing that there is still room for improvement.

“Goal: a new Pan-Cyprian record”

You recently won the gold medal at the World Championships. How did you experience this and what were your emotions?

“In April, I participated in the World Cup in Tbilisi in a different weight category, the 61-kilogram category. I managed to take first place overall and achieve the best performance in the category. I won my first gold medals. I cannot describe how I felt at that moment. When you see your country’s flag waving higher than the others, it is a unique feeling. I felt incredibly proud.”

What is your next goal?  

“My next goal is to participate in the World Championships in Dubai next August. I hope to achieve a better performance compared to the one I had in Georgia and set a new Pan-Cyprian record. I have been there before, and it is a unique experience.”

You recently changed weight categories. Was it something that challenged you?

“In our sport, all disabilities compete together. The categorization is based on our weight. I changed categories and moved from the 67-kilogram to the 61-kilogram. Initially, it was difficult because I had to lose quite a few kilograms. However, with the help of a nutritionist, a sports psychologist, and my coach, we managed it. It was a big change for me, but it paid off, and I even won my first gold medals.”

How did your journey in sports begin?

“I remember myself engaging in sports from the age of four. My parents took me to a rhythmic gymnastics school, and at the age of seven, I also started doing track and field. It’s like a bug; I caught it, and I am happy about it. I was an active athlete in both until I was 16, when I had a traffic accident. After that, I got involved in Paralympic sports and completely different sports. I started playing wheelchair basketball and then took up swimming. During that time, I received a proposal to try bench press weightlifting. I loved it, and I continue to do it until today.”

Why did you choose an individual sport?

“In individual sports, planning, goals, and successes or failures are a result of your efforts alone. In team sports, it depends on the team’s coordination. If players don’t synchronize well, the ball is lost somewhere.”

How do you handle an unwanted result, and how much does it affect you?

“It is quite difficult to deal with such situations. When an athlete reaches a high level and gets an unwanted result, it is extremely difficult to cope with it. When it happens to me, I try not to get disappointed, to see my mistakes, learn from them, and improve. After all, we cannot always be first; we must learn to win and lose.”

“Childhood dream, the Paralympic Games – I want to bring more people to the sport”

Do you have a particular event that stands out from your competitions? What was your most powerful competitive experience?

“I believe that among the competitions I have participated in until now, my first appearance at the Paralympics stands out. It was a special experience for me. It was a childhood dream come true. I managed to make my childhood dream a reality, and honestly, I never imagined that I would achieve it. I am proud of this accomplishment. I would say my most powerful experience was my recent competition at the World Cup because I was more focused, knew what Maria wanted, and had a proper plan in my mind.”

As the first female weightlifter in Cyprus, what role does this position play?

“Being the first female athlete in this sport creates the need to bring more athletes into it. The fact that I managed to reach such heights so quickly and participate in the biggest sports event is due to my inner strength, determination, and love for sports. I want to transfer these qualities to other people so they can achieve their dreams and goals, whether in our sport or in life in general.”

You participated in the Tokyo Paralympic Games. What was your reaction when you found out that you qualified?

“At that particular moment, I was at the Spyros Kyprianou Athletic Center in Limassol, training. I received a phone call from the Cypriot Paralympic National Committee and was informed that I would be going to Tokyo. I let out a loud cry that was heard throughout the athletic center. I was deeply moved because I had managed to make my childhood dream come true.”

How did you experience this event, and what did you learn from this experience?

“It was quite challenging to qualify because I had to participate in some mandatory competitions, which I had not taken part in in previous years. Additionally, we had quarantine due to COVID-19, and I was also working, making it not so easy to train. With the help of my family, coach, and the weightlifting federation, I managed to train at home. When the international competitions opened up, I chose to participate to assess my competitive condition. It was something that helped me as I did not lose my form, and later on, I secured the qualification. I participated in the event, learned from the good and the bad, and for the next Paralympic Games, I will be more prepared to strive for more, both for myself and my country. This experience taught me that when we set goals and truly love what we want to achieve, step by step, success will come.”

“Guide in my journey, the coach – Excellent facilities in Limassol and Thessaloniki”

How many hours a day do you train? What does your training include?

“I train twice a day for about three hours. My training includes warm-up, elastic bands, stretches, bench exercises, and exercises that help strengthen me. Also, a significant part of my training is rehabilitation, which is done with the help of my physiotherapists.”

How important is the role of your coach (Dimitris Ioannidis)?

“He is the guide on the entire journey. He is the beginning of everything. His assistance, along with the help of the others supporting us, has brought me to this level. He is always by my side, supporting me every minute, so I have confidence and believe in myself to reach my maximum potential.”

What is the most important advice he has given you?

“To stay focused, not to rush, and to follow his instructions. To constantly strive to improve because it is easy to reach the top but difficult to stay there. It takes effort, determination, and persistence. Additionally, to be true to my principles as a person, to evolve daily, and to always believe in myself.”

Where do you train? Are you satisfied with the facilities?

“I train at the Spyros Kyprianou Athletic Center in Limassol. It is in excellent condition, equipped with the right sports facilities, and even the latest technology. The Federation supports me a lot, and I am very thankful for that.”

When you come to Greece, which place do you choose for your training? Are you satisfied with it?

“For my preparation, I come to Thessaloniki and have chosen to train at the Pylaia Sports Center. The facilities are quite good, and I thank them for allowing me to train there. They have recently renovated the space, and the athlete feels like they are at home. Also, there is accessibility to all areas, and athletes with disabilities can train without any problem. I would like to express my gratitude to the Municipality of Pylaia, the coaches, and my fellow athletes for this warm hospitality.”

“I find a way to handle every difficulty.”

What has weightlifting offered you?

“It has helped me in my physical and mental health. It has strengthened me. As a person with a disability, there are some muscles that do not function properly, and this sport helps us strengthen them to cope with our daily lives. Moreover, it offers me pleasure and health.”

What difficulties have you faced in practicing this sport?

“Personally, I have not faced many difficulties, and if they exist, I find a way to overcome them. However, it is good to know that training for people with disabilities is more challenging compared to those without disabilities. The hours are longer, and there are modifications in how certain machines are used. The training program and pace change.” What would you like to improve in your competitive performance? “I would like to increase my weightlifting records. I want to become better every time.”

“What would you like to improve competitively within yourself?”

“I would like to improve competitively by enhancing my performance and increasing the weight I can lift. I aim to achieve better results in weightlifting and improve my technical abilities.”

“Will we stop living? – I learned about my disability and made new dreams.”

At the age of 16, an accident changed the course of my life. How did I manage it?

“I had an accident at the age of 16, which resulted in a complete disability in my lower limbs. It was quite challenging to come to terms with the fact that I wouldn’t walk again and wouldn’t be able to participate in the sports I used to love. It took time for me to cope with the situation. However, the people who were by my side supported me greatly and helped me understand that I had to continue living my life. I realized that as humans, we must evolve. There are many problems that can come knocking at our door at any moment. Does that mean we should stop living? No! We don’t need to give up on life; with determination and patience, we can find ways to overcome challenges. We have to leap over obstacles and adapt to new circumstances.”

How much has your daily life changed?

“My daily life changed significantly. Just imagine, one moment I was an athlete, constantly running and doing acrobatics, and the next moment, I had to learn how to manage life in a wheelchair. It was difficult but not impossible. I learned about my disability and made new dreams based on my new situation.”

Are you satisfied with the facilities and spaces available for people with disabilities?

“As for the facilities and spaces for people with disabilities, there is room for improvement. For example, there are parking spaces designated for people with disabilities, but people without disabilities often use them. There aren’t enough accessible restrooms in many establishments, and not all streets and sidewalks have ramps, making it challenging to move around independently. It saddens me because life could be much easier. I wish I could go for a coffee on my own or not have to call a shop to ask if it’s accessible for me. I’m not entirely independent.”

What is your family’s attitude?

“My family’s support has been crucial. Without them, I wouldn’t be who I am today. They stand by me in every decision I make.”

Besides weightlifting, what do you engage in?

“I am a computer science teacher in Secondary Education, and I make sure to fill my daily life in a way that helps other people. My role now involves visiting all school units and informing children about sports, road safety, and disability. In this way, I aim to assist them in having healthy role models and to let them know that they can pursue any goal regardless of their circumstances. Additionally, I participate in various charitable events, Erasmus projects, and I am a member of non-profit organizations that help people in need.”

You are quite active and involved in various fields. Do you believe that society is ready to accept people with disabilities?

“In recent years, the landscape has changed. People with disabilities have become more social and are striving to integrate into society. However, there are still some stereotypes, even in sports. In Cyprus, there is a distinction between Olympians and Paralympians, with individuals with disabilities being considered at a disadvantage. This is different from other countries where they are treated equally. When the state does not recognize you as an equal member, what can you expect from society? Let us not forget that we are all potentially individuals with disabilities. As we age, we might need a walking stick or assistance. So, why should these individuals be treated differently? The goal is for people with disabilities to become more social and fully integrated into society.”

Getting to know Maria better

“Role Model: I learned the sport of weightlifting from Pyrros Dimas. He was the reason I wanted to learn this particular sport from a young age. He excelled continuously and became one of my role models. We have met a few times, and I asked him how he managed to achieve the conquest of gold medals. I also admire those individuals who set goals and strive to achieve them, overcoming every obstacle.”

Favorite food: “I enjoy many dishes, but I have a special weakness for meat.”

Favorite song: “I like ‘Elpida’ by Argyros.”

Favorite TV series/movie: “I prefer watching action and romantic movies.”

Favourite colour: “Black”

Pet: “I have a dog and two cats”

Tattoos: “I have many tattoos on my back and arms. Each one I have chosen holds special meaning for me. I have designed something related to disability, symbols of the Paralympic and Olympic Games, an owl, a she-wolf, and a big concept of Marilyn Monroe. I admire her greatly because she was a strong woman who followed her own path and showed that women can achieve a lot if they want to”

Good luck charm: “I have an amulet.”

Free time: “I don’t leave enough time to rest; I enjoy participating in various activities and helping others.”

“How would you describe yourself in one word/phrase: ‘I am dynamic, I enjoy adrenaline, and I love challenges.”

Source: Panayiota Chalkia (Metrosport)

The need to support children with disabilities in the face of the Ministry of Education Parliament.

The issue of the need to support children with disabilities and chronic illnesses by specialized companions, such as nurses, as well as the problems that arise in special education, was discussed in today’s session by the Parliamentary Committee on Education and Culture. As emphasized in the Committee, every child has the right to education, and the state must ensure it.

It was also noted that timely and adequate staffing of schools is important concerning companions, such as nurses, for children with disabilities and chronic illnesses.

It was added that where there is a need for a companion who should be a nurse or caregiver, this should be done immediately.

It was emphasized that the existing legislation needs to be changed as it dates back to the 1970s, with the last amendment occurring in 1999. Additionally, it was mentioned that the existing legislation is not fully implemented in a way that helps all children based on their individual needs and specificities.

Pavlos Mylonas, the President of the Parliamentary Committee on Education, stated after the session that a huge issue is special education, which touches upon the aspect of empathy and understanding of others’ problems, the need for support for those who require it.

When asked about how many children need companions and how much funding is needed to meet the needs of these children, Mr. Mylonas said that they were given a number for nurses because there are children who require nurses, specialized personnel, not just companions, and the number is around 90 for this year.

“The cost is not high. It is very low. We must prioritize the needs of education and training. We can find the millions and gradually start with targeted, organized efforts through long-term strategic planning,” he added.

Pavlos Alampritis, Member of Parliament from DISY, stated that “our general principle is that every child should have the support they are entitled to according to their needs.”

“Some of the issues we discussed were the evaluation of children’s needs by regional committees, respecting the recommendations of specialists, avoiding limitations on the number of companions, and addressing unmet requests for companions. The evaluation processes of needs must be expedited to avoid delays in decision-making and to prevent injustice towards children,” he noted.

Mr. Alampritis continued, stating that they expect requests for evaluation to be examined within one, two, three, or four months at the beginning of the year.

“We need to strengthen the institution of speech therapy and incorporate occupational therapy to support these children. Regarding the hiring of companions, it should be based on the needs of the children. However, we must also upgrade the institution of companions. The new government needs to modernize legislation dating back to 1999 and decide whether to staff the Committee for the Evaluation of Children’s Needs or take a different approach to meet the needs of these children,” he added.

Christos Christofides, Member of Parliament from AKEL, stated that once again, they discussed the issue of inclusive special education in today’s session of the Committee on Education.

“It is a critical issue that concerns thousands of children and parents. Let me remind you that we have legislation from 1999. Since then, significant scientific and other developments have taken place, which in many advanced countries, especially in Europe, have advanced the treatment of children with disabilities. Unfortunately, in the last 24 years, we have not revised the legislation, especially since 2012, when we undertook contractual and other international obligations,” he noted.

Furthermore, he also mentioned that in the past ten years, “unfortunately, the approach has been to make patches, to have discussions without substance and content, and the previous government did not substantially address the overall revision and modernization of legislation regarding children with disabilities in schools.”

“Specifically, regarding companions, we have indicated to the Ministry of Education that the numbers of companions provided to regional committees are lower than last year’s needs, considering how we ended the school year, while it seems that the needs have increased. We are discussing these issues now because our goal is to assist the Ministry of Education in meeting the actual needs and properly supporting children with disabilities,” he added.

He also mentioned that “some children with disabilities were unable to attend summer schools due to the lack of companions.”

Regarding the dialogue initiated by the new government for the modernization of legislation on inclusive education, Mr. Christofides stated, “We have requested timelines because we have had enough of promises and dialogues. We want timelines for when we will finally be ready to take the step of a comprehensive modernization of the legislative framework for the benefit of children.”

Simultaneously, Mr. Christofides stated that they have demanded the Ministry of Education to provide them with the training plan for companions.

“We have individuals who accompany children with disabilities, and they need psychological and pedagogical training, among other things. As we were informed the last time we discussed this issue, in the past two years, these individuals have received only one hour of training, and many of them do not even have a university degree. I don’t say this critically; these are the realities we face. Therefore, these individuals need support and training,” he added.

Mr. Christofides also mentioned that they will continue to monitor the progress of the issue throughout the summer.

“As you know, the summer period is crucial for education as it sets the stage for developments in September. Our goal is to help ensure that the school year starts as smoothly as possible for a school that is deserving of our children, through our proposals, recommendations, and observations,” he concluded.

Andreas Apostolou, Member of Parliament from EDEK, stated that when this issue was brought up for public discussion, namely the need for specialized companions such as nurses for children with disabilities and chronic illnesses attending schools to ensure their safe and uninterrupted education, “we said that we open it up for all children, for every child in need of this particular support.”

“Although initially this request found support from the Ministry of Education but not from the Ministry of Health, after the public discussion that took place and after today’s initiative to discuss the issue in the Education Committee, we are pleased because the issue is heading towards a solution for all children. We have been officially informed by the Ministry of Health that there are 12 requests from parents of children with serious disabilities and chronic illnesses who require the accompaniment of a nurse to ensure their safe attendance at schools,” he added.

Mr. Apostolou stated that the discussion is now officially opened, and the process is being institutionalized so that these cases can be evaluated. There is a clear commitment from the executive authority that those cases scientifically evaluated and approved in September, with the new school year, will have a nurse or any other specialized companion accompanying them to enable them to attend public schools.

“When we believe that the goal has been achieved, and after this discussion that has opened, we have achieved something that for years was simply kept in a drawer at the Ministry of Health and was not evaluated.” However, the bigger picture regarding the education and inclusion of children with disabilities in our public schools is not just this, and we are pleased because the new Minister of Education, Ms. Athena Michaelidou, with her scientific background and sensitivity, recognizes the fact that the legislation for special education currently in place has reached its limit,” he added.

He also mentioned that in private discussions and meetings with the Minister, they have been informed that a discussion will soon begin regarding the creation of a new framework that will essentially open another cycle.

“This is the cycle we want and the cycle that, as a European country, we are obliged to implement based on the convention we have signed regarding the rights of persons with disabilities. It is the framework of inclusive education, where every child can have reasonable adjustments and support, so that we can achieve inclusion and they can attend their class with their classmates without needing any support outside the framework of learning and the class they belong to,” he noted.

Therefore, Mr. Apostolou said, “I hope that the issue of children who truly need a nurse will be resolved by September.”

“I truly hope that the issue of companions, in a broader sense, will be managed in such a way that when schools open in September, we, as the Parliamentary Education Committee, will not face the same issues we face every September. But most importantly, I hope that the efforts of this Minister, with whom we agree and support, will be completed as soon as possible, and our country will turn a new page regarding the support of children with disabilities and their attendance in our schools,” he concluded.

Source: ΚΥΠΕ

President: Ensuring the rights of people with disabilities is a priority

Ensuring the rights of people with disabilities and combating prejudices and discrimination is a priority of the Government, stated the President of the Republic, Nikos Christodoulides, in his address at the 42nd Annual General Assembly of the Cyprus Organisation for the Blind.

According to an announcement conveyed by GTB, the greeting was read on behalf of President Christodoulides by the Deputy Minister of Social Welfare, Marilena Evaggelou.

“Undoubtedly, people with visual disabilities in Cyprus have the right to equal and active participation in the social life of our country. It is the state’s obligation to provide opportunities and resources for them to be active members of society,” President Christodoulides stated.

It is noted that ensuring the rights of people with disabilities and combating prejudices and discrimination is a priority of the Government. This is highlighted through the First National Strategy for Disability for 2018-2028, as well as the three-year National Action Plans that gather and depict all actions of all state services that serve, within their responsibilities, people with disabilities.

“The purpose of the actions promoted is to align with modern trends and practices in addressing disability, taking into account the demands of the directly involved citizens, within the framework of the available resources and capabilities of the state,” it stated.

Additionally, for empowering individuals with visual disabilities and facilitating their lives, the following support measures are of crucial importance: a monthly allowance for blind individuals received by approximately 2,000 people, a monthly transportation subsidy, disability allowance for recipients of Minimum Guaranteed Income, in-home care subsidy, car purchase subsidy, and subsidy for the acquisition of technical aids and assistive technology equipment.

Furthermore, he/she stated that the Pancyprian Organization of the Blind, through the provision of grants by the Department of Social Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities, employs social companions to assist the visually impaired in all cities.

It was emphasized that through these programs, beyond the 750 members of the Organization who benefit, those who use the services of the companion are facilitated and encouraged not only for their service needs but also for mobility, engagement, socialization, participation, and inclusion in general.

President Christodoulides noted that for employment inclusion, the Law on the Employment of Persons with Disabilities in the Broader Public Sector has provided opportunities for dozens of visually impaired individuals who possessed the necessary qualifications to be appointed in the Public Sector.

It was also added that opportunities for employment in the private sector were provided through the Schemes for Incentives to Businesses for Hiring Persons with Disabilities, as well as through the Scheme for Granting Aid to Small Units for Self-Employment in any viable professional sector.

In the field of social entrepreneurship, the Cyprus Organization of the Blind is already pioneering by organizing training programs that inform and prepare visually impaired individuals to cultivate a culture of entrepreneurship. With the completion of the legal framework expected this year, they will be ready to integrate or establish their own social enterprises.

It was emphasized that the Government aims to create new job opportunities, which, in combination with economic and other incentives, as well as training and advisory services, will constitute a new framework for professional rehabilitation of individuals with visual or other disabilities.

The President of the Republic mentioned that in the field of support for independent living, the Cyprus Organization of the Blind operates a supported living residence, providing supportive services for care, entertainment, companionship, psychological support, and socialization.

The goal, he added, is the continuous growth and progress of the residents, strengthening their social and other skills, further education and development based on their talents and preferences, improving and maintaining a high level of their quality of life.

“We continue towards the full integration of people with disabilities into the social fabric and the modernization of social protection policies, with new services such as Personal Assistants and Counselors, based on the principles and values of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,” he said.

It was also mentioned that the Governance Program aims to modernize existing legislation and adopt new legislation, such as providing access to support services for decision-making or assistance in independent living.

President Christodoulides congratulated the Cyprus Organization of the Blind and expressed his appreciation for its longstanding contribution to citizens with visual impairments and for the valuable work it carries out in all areas that affect their lives.

Source: KYPE

Aradippou adopts our application

The Municipality of Aradippou chooses accessibility and free movement for everyone.

The Municipality of Aradippou is adopting another important tool to support People with Disabilities, as it will collaborate with the original platform “Ablebook” with the aim of creating an open, accessible, and safe city for everyone. Mayor of Aradippou, Evangelos Evangelidis, and municipal secretary Matthaios Alampritis met with the Director and Founder of “Ablebook,” Andreas Vasilios, who presented them with the idea and capabilities of the platform, as well as his vision for its development throughout Cyprus.

“Ablebook” is the first online platform for People with Disabilities in Cyprus, inspired by its founder’s personal experiences and challenges faced in his daily life as an individual with a congenital disability. It is an application that provides all relevant information and services regarding accessibility for people with disabilities within urban centers and communities in Cyprus.

Specifically, through the Ablebook app, users can view an interactive map that allows them to select the location they want to navigate to, choose categories of places and amenities they wish to be provided by those locations, and see the available accessibility features at each location through available photographic material. Additionally, users can report problems they encounter in a specific space, with direct communication with the platform’s management.

In the application, there are over 1000 locations and the facilities provided for people with disabilities, as well as all the public parking spaces for people with disabilities in Cyprus. The second feature of the application is the Ablecard, a membership card exclusively for individuals with disabilities, through which businesses within the application provide additional privileges such as discounts. The third feature is the “Kids” section, a unit that provides information on accessible spaces where children with disabilities can engage in sports, such as parks, gyms, sports teams/academies, nature trails, and more. The final feature of the application is the Ablebook Portal, through which businesses and municipal authorities have the ability to manage their locations in the application, change content, operating hours, photos, etc.

After the meeting, the Mayor of Aradippou expressed the municipality’s readiness to support the effort. “Every tool that gives us the ability to create better conditions in the daily lives of our fellow citizens facing difficulties is welcome in our municipality. The possibilities offered through this specific platform align with this direction, and we couldn’t stay away. The capabilities provided by technology can and should be utilized for equal access for everyone.”