“To make Gibraltar a far more accepting and accessible place”

Paris Tavares, founder of the online account Special Educations Needs & Disabilities (SEN/D), began her online campaign early this year to raise awareness on issues she felt had long gone unheard of in Gibraltar. “Working as a child-minder has given me an inside view as to how hard it can be for children with SEN/D and their families.

These challenges present a constant battle with society for accessibility and general acceptance. Society has come a long way with promotion on certain SEN/D issues, but there are still many that people have never heard of or been given the chance to understand.” Thus, the purposes for creating the social media account was precisely to begin a project where people were given opportunities to learn about SEN/D, and how they “they can change little things they do in their lives to make Gibraltar a far more accepting and accessible place”.

The beginnings of this idea go as far back as 2012 where she completed a work experience placement in a SEN school. Ever since she has been working with people and children with SEN/D. “I’ve volunteered with the GHA Occupational Therapy Department, spent five summers as a Leader with the GSLA Stay and Play Summer Sport Programme, done numerous placements in a SEN/D school, volunteered with the Dyslexia Support Group Homework Club, and also ran a SEN/D After School Club for the Guardian Angels Foundation. All of these experiences have cemented my passion to become a teacher and be an advocate for people with SEN/D”. Paris also studied Special Educational Needs and Disability Studies at the University of Suffolk in 2017 where she completed half of her degree with a solid foundation of knowledge. “I went on to finish my degree through the Open University, studying Equality, Participation and Inclusion alongside other child related studies. For the last year, while completing my degree, I’ve also been working as a full time child minder for a young girl who is on the Autistic Spectrum. This coming September I’m due to begin a PGCE in Primary and Early Years Education, with specialism in SEN, at Birmingham City University”.

With the knowledge and understanding she had gained from experience and studying, the campaign only came natural to her. Her initial posts “have highlighted how people can make their social media posts more accessible to people with visual impairments, which can be done with just a few simple steps. Others explain the variety of support dogs available to assist people with different disabilities, and highlight Global Accessibility Awareness Day”.