Newsletter 2/2004

VIM Newsletter 2 – 2004 (PDF)

1. Editorial

by Kicki Nordström,  President of the WBU

Projects such as VIM which aim at strengthening the opportunities available for visually impaired people on the labour market are important and bring with them positive effects for all visually impaired people. It is good to be able to point to good results achieved by visually impaired people within a certain field, in this case the massage  profession.

Visually impaired people the world over have difficulty in getting work. This is an irrefutable fact. The difficulties they experience are many in nature. Among  the biggest of them is employers’ lack of  confidence in the ability of the visually impaired to perform a statisfactory job.

The World Blind Union (WBU) with its 600 organisations for people with a visual impairment around  the world works to improve the situation for these people  especially in matters concerning the possibilities for work and self-support. In  many quarters this is perhaps the most important  question of all. Working and supporting oneself is not  important just for one’s own welfare but also brings with it  positive effects both for the individual and for society at large. The visually impaired person is then seen as a resource and an asset and not as a burden.

In order for major changes to  occur on the labour market, employers need to understand that a visually  impaired person can work and that is why positive examples of skilful  professionals from various lines of work are required. Skilfulness is attained by, among other things, a good vocational training, and I hope  and believe that through VIM this will be achieved.

Good luck in the important work you are carrying out in the cause of visually impaired people.

2. Finland: VIM: A New Training Course  and a New Challenge

by the students

In August 2003 a new  training course entitled  VIM (Visually Impaired Masseurs) started in Vaasa, Finland. This pilot course run by SYI (The Swedish  Vocational Institute) has the backing of five European countries, namely England,  Italy, Finland, Portugal and Sweden. Of these five countries the latter three have managed to find students (an equal number of visually impaired and normal sighted individuals) who are  able to attend the course.

The course lasts for 60 study  weeks / (one and a half years). Despite the mix of visual ability among the students the group works very well together. The training received is both  theoretical and practical in nature and every student has his/her own individuallytailored study plan. The subjects studied are divided  into three main groups:

Supporting skills:

  •  Personal development
  • Medical knowledge
  •  Communication skills
  •  Contextual network

Core skills

  •  The massage process
  •  Supporting activities
  •  On-the-job training

Application of core skills

  • Evidence-based practice
  •  Entrepreneurship and employment

As this course is very practical in nature our massage skills are tested by our giving each other massage and we have also set up our own clinic which is open to everybody at  the school. Feel free to come in for a massage if you happen to be in Vaasa!

Carina, Gilberto, Heidi, Inka, Kirsi, Linn, Manuela, Maria, Peter,Sanna-Mari

3. The Unstoppable Rise of Ocean Querelle

by Ocean Querelle

It is interesting to see  how and why people are drawn to, and motivated by, the caring profession. What follows below is a taste of my journey. I have always had an eye condition which has challenged me, depressed me, debilitated me but never stopped me from reaching my goals in life. I have explored many careers and life styles in my short, yet  eventful life; from studying and working as an actor to studying and working as a singer. I had a successful and hedonistic time modelling when I was paid ridiculous amounts of money just for the way I looked. I lived and worked in theatreland on many productions looking after costumes and dressing thespians who were precious “loves”.

I emigrated to Toronto, Canada, in 1986 after being sponsored to work as a designer for a design studio which specialised in hand-printed textiles. Calamity soon struck and I experienced a dramatic worsening of my eyesight and I not only lost my job but also had to return to England and to nothing.

On my return to England I had no home, no resources and no idea of what to do next. I spent a year feeling sorry for myself, as you do, and then during a visit to my local job centre I heard about the remedial therapy course being run at the Royal National College for the Blind. Within a few weeks I had packed my suitcase and had left London for Hereford, where the college is situated, to start a new life and a new career. The course I followed was not too dissimilar to the wonderful course which is presently being run.

Initially I found living and working in an institutional environment distressing and difficult as I had no previous experience of attending a specialist school or facility but I adapted and though being a little resistant to the challenge of residential life I quickly realised what this course could do for me and how empowered I felt and so I embraced the opportunity and have never looked back.

It was strange and yet at the same time wonderful to see how my life went from being one where I was completely involved with being creative, indulgent and ego-driven to then being guided to do something in the caring profession. Such a radical change in direction was a true case of divine intervention! Learning to help other people was both a major turning point in my life and a valuable learning experience for me.

After completing my studies I worked as a masseur at the health spa where I had done my apprenticeship. I left after six months and with me came a good number of my clients as they enjoyed and appreciated my work. That was how I started my own private practice. Word soon got around about this fantastic therapist who had just started up in business and thus my career was born.

I had never advertised and so my client base came about purely by word of mouth and although this took some time I was able, within a year, to earn my living through massage.

After 15 years I am still excited with the work I do and have kept updating my skills and portfolio of experience by learning new massage techniques and healing systems which all come together in what I offer my clients. My clients have also become my friends and I have a great respect for them, the work I do and the positive effects that massage brings.

Five years ago after repeatedly being asked to teach massage (particularly by those of my clients who were themselves therapists and who liked my techniques) I decided to add another string to my bow and I began to offer advanced level training to professionals on a one-to-one basis in order to enable them to update their skills. I found this so rewarding and natural that I decided to take up the gauntlet and focus on teaching. I am now back at the Royal National College in the final stages of a teacher training course.

Who knows where my next adventure will take me! I know that teaching is as rewarding and nourishing to me as massage and I feel privileged to have found such a rewarding line of work.

Studying massage has been the most inspired and profound learning experience I have had thus far in life. Not only has it given me a healthy income but I have also learned so much about myself and I have developed positively both as a human being and as a professional. It has helped me care for others and develop a sense of compassion. What better work is there than to help people, nurture oneself and earn a living through the experience, FANTASTIC!

My teaching practice has empowered me and given me so much more than I had hoped for. I feel I can now offer quality training to my students and at the same time see the quality of the therapy I offer improve by so doing.

4. Sweden’s first massage clinic run by visually impaired masseurs

by Lars Lind

For several years now Knut Torstensson and Thomas Ohlsson have been running Sweden’s first AKTIVO clinic. They graduated in 1995 from the first training course for visually impaired people in massage which was paid for by the Swedish National Labour Market Board and run by Malmö University.

“We met on the course and very quickly started thinking about starting up in business together” says Knut, who lost his sight as an adult after a serious car crash. “After we had successfully completed the course we started working at the National Dental Service in Malmö as part of a project where we gave massage to the dental staff and it was then that we came to the conclusion that it was high time we began making plans to set up our own company”.

At that time the Employability Institute (AMI Syd) in Malmö was running an EU project and through this project Knut and Thomas received the help they needed in starting up their own business. It goes without saying, however, that these things take time. “We really had to look into the intricacies and practicalities of working as self-employed masseurs” relates Thomas, who is visually impaired and a former recreation leader who decided to change careers once jobs for recreation leaders became few and far between.

Everyone in Sweden who wishes to start up their own business with the help of the various action programmes which the Employment Office has to offer should attend a course where they learn the basics of how to start up in business for themselves. For one reason or another Knut and Thomas never made it onto such a course and so they had to resort to other means to gain the necessary information.

Their clinic is located in Eslöv, a smallish town in Southern Sweden. They share the premises with the Occupational Health Service and their customer base consists of various companies in the region. Knut and Thomas regularly visit these companies and give massage to the employees. This is a successful concept which has led to an improvement in the general state of health among the employees at the workplaces Knut and Thomas visit.

As of this year it has become more advantageous for companies to let their employees avail themselves of onsite massage as it is now possible to claim tax relief for the costs incurred in providing massage for staff as massage is viewed as Staff Care.

How do Knut and Thomas view their job?

“The best thing about the job  is that you are always eagerly awaited when you turn up” says Knut and Thomas agrees. “It would be good if we got a protected occupational title” Knut points out and explains how important such a protection would be. “Nowadays there are many people who call themselves masseurs but many of these may only have attended a course in massage over a few weekends here and there”.

Ten years have now passed since Knut and Thomas started on the year-long course at Malmö University. How do they view the course and what could have been done differently?

“I think that the course was good” says Knut, “but there’s nothing that can’t be improved. I would have liked to have had more medical theory and more ergonomics”. “Perhaps these could be the subjects of continuation courses” he adds and continues “Self-care is also very important and I would have liked more of that; it is good for oneself and it is also something that we can teach our clients”.

Both Knut and Thomas agree that the topic of how to start up a company should be a theme which runs throughout the whole course. Topics covered should include how to market oneself as a masseur, the type of company that fits in with one’s business idea, financial rutines etc etc. The questions are many and varied and the possibility ought to exist during the course to discuss these and similar questions with experts.

“The topics of functional testing and diagnostics ought to have been taken up in greater detail” Thomas points out before rushing off to a yoga class. Self-care can obviously take many different forms!

Knut and Thomas view the future with confidence. Both agree that they have chosen the right profession. Who wouldn’t want a job where they were eagerly awaited?

5. The Italian Massage Profession is in a State of Transition

by Carlo Monti

Until recently the possibility for visually impaired masseurs in Italy to work as independent practitioners has been an excellent option for those individuals who are willing to put in the required effort and commitment.

The law in fact guarantees employment for visually impaired masseurs if they wish to work within the national health system and so, bearing this in mind, it is not hard to see that only the most prepared and able massage practitioners would be willing to renounce the prospect of definite employment and so expose themselves to the vagaries of competition on the open labour market. Only 10% of visually impaired masseurs take up the challenge. Those who do so receive great personal and professional satisfaction and recognition as a result.

Generally speaking, the customers whom these masseurs treat suffer from problems related to the skeletal system or the muscular system. The problems they experience arise as a result of illness or trauma that these systems are subjected to.

In Italy, the concept of preventative health care is not as widely acknowledged or acted on as is the case in other European countries and it is relatively rare for Italians to avail themselves of the services of a masseur/masseuse in order to bring about a sense of well-being and to prevent the onset of physical problems. The main exceptions to this trend have been sportsmen and other professionals (i.e.musicians) whose work can involve a lot of physical stress of one sort or another. Both musicians and sportsmen, including some famous ones, have turned to visually impaired masseurs for help. Among the musicians have been some from the Florence Municipal Theatre.

As a result of their foray onto the open labour market visually impaired masseurs have obtained good professional results and made some good contacts. One limiting factor they face, however, is the legal requirement that a massage practitioner must work in conjunction with a doctor. Such joint work does not, as might be supposed, undermine the professional autonomy of the masseur. In the case of the visually impaired masseurs in Ligury this requirement has been done away with.

The present situation for visually impaired masseurs in Italy is in a state of flux; employment in the field of health care is open only to those who are designated “physiotherapists”. Massage practitioners are thus blocked from working in this field. Although there are a lot of legal objections to this employment block, it seems to be an irreversible state of affairs.

Employment on the open market now seems to be the only option for visually impaired masseurs and not just the privilege of those few who dare to venture outside the hitherto safe employment system. This presents these masseurs with a challenge, namely seeking employment on the open labour market, which, as yet, does not have legal safeguards in place for them.

A comprehensive review of the curriculum for massage courses for visually impaired masseurs needs to be undertaken. By so doing, massage practitioners in Italy, who as yet are not sufficiently prepared to compete professionally with others, can begin to do so. The Ministry for Public Education has promised, in vain, to carry out the necessary reform. Schools find that they are limited by too much emphasis being placed on matters which have no direct bearing on the skills required by would-be massage practitioners.

The pilot course currently underway in Vaasa will hopefully provide a new impetus for the drive in Italy to revitalise the training of visually impaired masseurs and the profession into which they enter.

6. Introduction of the ITEC Qualification in Sport’s Massage

by Stan Cantrill

The RNC has recently added the ITEC Qualification in Sport’s Massage to the list of courses it offers students.

In order to be eligible to attend the course the students either had to be qualified Remedial Therapists or at least have passed the core units of remedial massage, professional conduct, anatomy and physiology.

The first intake of students were very keen and wanted to put their new-found skills into practice and so attended all sorts of athletic events where they utilised their knowledge in the management and treatment of injuries and gave both pre- and post-event massage.

After working at the Commonwealth Games in 2002 the students were invited to give advice on preand post-event massage to the GB Junior Rifle and Pistol Squad at one of their training weekends at the national shooting centre in Bisley.

When carrying out their shooting practice, it is common for the members of the squad to apply an isometric contraction, hold their breath and then squeeze the trigger. This leads to the muscle groups in the upper body becoming severely traumatised. The facilitated and self stretches which we taught members of the squad were aimed at avoiding this problem and this, coupled with the massage they received from us, produced some superb results. One unexpected outcome of our involvement was that the squad members have taken to giving massage to each other, thus increasing the sense of team bonding. Introducing the benefits of massage to so young a group of people is clearly of great importance for any future involvement in sport that they might wish to pursue.

Another highlight of the students’ work experience year was their being invited by the British Heart Foundation to massage cyclists at the end of the annual London Southend Charity Cycle Race. It was pleasing to note that the RNC students were far more competent in Sports Massage than their counterparts. In fact, the other masseurs kept on asking “What are you doing?” and “How were you able to learn these techniques?” One of the students kindly offered to poke the inquisitive individual in the eye and so enable him or her to attend the RNC and find out the answer to the question personally!

The RNC has a new intake of students for this academic year and several of them have expressed an interest in Sports Massage. A new venture currently underway in conjunction with a local football team is a sports’ injury clinic run by the students. The clinic will also be open to all students at the college who are involved in one way or another with sport.

7. Portugal Positive about the Future for Pan-European Massage Training

by Assis Milton Rodrigues

As a member of the project: “Supporting the creation of a uniform model for a European masseur training for visually impaired people”, we have been able to send two participants to join the pilot training course which is currently underway in Finland. We have been a part of the project since its start, giving our input as and when required and it is pleasing to see the positive effects that this involvement has had both on the pilot project and on the progress our representatives are making.

We are gratified to see that the course is alive and kicking and meeting the aims and goals set for it. The pilot project is on schedule and is running like clockwork. Our participants, Gil and Manuela, returned to Portugal during a break in the course and shared with us what had been happening. Adapting to an entirely new environment involved some surprises and some sacrifices not least as regards the food, the weather, the language and the financial restraints that come with being a student. Nevertheless we are quite confident that they will overcome any obstacles they may encounter and that they will safely return to Portugal with a wealth of experiences and know-how concerning the massage profession.

APEDV’s participation in the course will undoubtedly have a positive and lasting influence on the way we run our massage courses. We are aware of the continual need to improve our training methods and the contents of our courses so as to produce the best possible blind masseurs. Our involvement in the whole project, of which the pilot training course is but a part, goes a long way to providing us with an excellent opportunity towards meeting this need. Any improvements we implement will also take into consideration the views and needs of those past students of ours who are presently working as masseurs. We will involve them in the regular seminars or workshops (etc) which we hope to hold.

The project “Supporting the creation of a uniform model for a European masseur training for visually impaired people” was conceived and structured in such a way that any institution in Europe, or for that matter, in any part of the world, could use this model as a basic reference guide when planning similar courses. This ensures a high quality end product.  As the massage profession is one in which a substantial number of blind people can work independently it is bound to contribute to bringing about the social and economical integration of those blind people who might benefit from such a form of training.

In Portugal APEDV has been continuously producing qualified masseurs at a rate of about six per year since 1986. Most of our graduates have obtained gainful employment, mainly in the private sector. The reason that they have found employment in the private sector and not in the public sector is due to the fact that our course is not officially recognized as qualifying an individual to work in the public sector. We are, however, hoping that the model which all of the organisations involved in the VIM project are now working upon will soon be officially recognized for use in the whole of the EU area. With this aim in mind contacts have been made at an official level with the relevant validating bodies.

We feel privileged to be a part of the pilot project and we count it both as our duty and our joy to work hard towards helping visually impaired people to find their proper place in society as a whole. We would also like to take this opportunity to express our thanks to our fellow workers in the project and to Elisabet Borgar and Lars Lind for the guidance they give us. They have kept the project on track from the very beginning.

Contact

Project-Coordinator
Ms Elisabet Borgar, MSc (Health Sciences), Lecturer
Tel +358 6 324 2321
Mobile +358 50 336 8281
Fax +358 6 3242310
e-mail: elisabet.borgar@syi.fi
homepage: http://vim.syi.fi

Partners in the project:

The Swedish Vocational Institute, Finland (SYI)

The Institute for Research, Training and Rehabilitation (I.Ri.Fo.R.)

APEDV, Associação Promotora De Emprego De Decifientes Visuais

Royal National College for the Blind (RNC)

Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB)

AKTIVO 2000 – International Association of Visually Impaired Masseurs and Physiotherapists

The Swedish Association of the Visually Impaired (SRF)

Arbetsförmedlingen Rehabilitering

(Employment offices with special resources for people with disabilities)

The Arla Institute

The Federation for The Swedish-Speaking Visually Impaired in Finland (FSS)

Finnish Association of Visually Impaired Masseurs and Physiotherapists (FAN)

Finnish Federation of the Visually Impaired (NKL)

Newsletter 1/2003

VIM Newsletter 1-2003 (PDF)

1. Creation of a uniform model for a European masseur training for visually impaired people

The prevention of the social exclusion of the target group disabled people is important bearing in mind the UN’s Standard Rules which were created in order to guarantee people with a functional impairment participation and equality. The UN’s Standard Rules were accepted in 1993 and at a national level oblige the individual to pledge himself to put these rules into practice. The Standard Rules imply that people with a disability have the right to take it for granted that active and concrete measures are taken to implement the guidelines laid down in the Standard Rules. Co-operation between countries can foster new methods to fight discrimination as regards differences in relation to the labour market.

The aim of the project “Visually Impaired Masseurs” http://vim.syi.fi is to develop a model for a uniform European vocational training course in massage for people who are visually impaired, with the emphasis being on entrepreneurship, including taking vocational tests to receive certification. People with a visual impairment; partially-sighted and blind people should be given the chance for integration on the labour market. The massage profession is an international one and can be practised wherever one lives.

The model for the training, comprising 60 study-weeks, is to be planned, realized and evaluated in collaboration with representatives from training centres for visually impaired people as well as with representatives from associations for people who are visually impaired and representatives from working life. A uniform model of cross-border training courses makes possible an increased understanding of the masseur profession in various countries and promotes international co-operation. The training gives an increased equality as regards competition and establishment in working life.

A pilot training course, based on the outcomes of the project, will be arranged at the Swedish Vocational Institute in Vaasa, Finland. The training is designed to provide students with the skills and know-how which will enable them to contribute successfully to the society of tomorrow. By the end of the course a fully trained masseur/masseuse will be able to provide treatment and advice to a wide range of client groups in different countries. The fully trained masseur/masseuse will also be able to work in a variety of contexts such as health spas, sports clubs and health care settings. He/she may choose to work in a private clinic or even set up his/her own practice.

Timetable for the training course:  4 August 2003 – 17 December 2004

Elisabet Borgar, Project-Coordinator , Swedish Vocational Institute, Finland www.syi.fi

2. More and more visually impaired people are choosing to work as masseurs

During the past fifteen or so years new technology has improved the job possibilities for visually impaired people. Computers have brought about a lot of new and interesting opportunities for both blind and partially sighted people. The development of all kinds of technical aids has been rapid and exceptional in nature and what we have today would have been unimaginable just several years ago.

With all due respect to new technology, there will always be people who prefer to work with their hands. Be they sighted or visually impaired, some people just need to create things with their hands. It is enough for some of these people to have a hobby where they can do this, but there are many others who would like to earn their living by using their hands.  In the early 90’s I worked in the field of vocational guidance for visually impaired people and in every group of people with whom I had dealings there would be at least one person who expressed a wish to have a job involving “hands-on” work.

I knew that Finland had a long experience of training visually impaired people to become masseurs and so after carrying out several study visits to the Arla Institute in Finland it was decided to set up a training course in Sweden. Initially the course was held at Malmö University, but after several years it was moved to the university in Karlstad. As from autumn 2003 the course will be held in Uppsala due to the fact that it is far easier to reach Uppsala by any given mode of transport from virtually anywhere in Sweden than was ever the case with Karlstad. Arlanda airport, Sweden’s main airport, is just 19 minutes away by train from Uppsala.

The course in Sweden is a one-year post-secondary school level programme and is open to unemployed visually impaired people. The results achieved thus far have been very good: most of the trainees have found employment after the training, either as self-employed practitioners or working at, for example, spas, health care centres or other enterprises.

The future looks bright for visually impaired masseurs. Preventative health care is becoming more and more important to employers. Every employer wants his staff to feel good and one way of achieving this is to offer massage to the employees during working hours. The masseur profession suits both partially sighted and blind people, and it is one of the most international jobs you could have.

Lars Lind , Chairperson, AKTIVO INTERNATIONAL*  Sweden

*AKTIVO INTERNATIONAL, an international association of visually impaired masseurs and physiotherapists, has been registered in Sweden. The association is the result of an EU-project which was set up in Sweden to develop an employment system for trained visually impaired masseurs. www.aktivo.com

3. Masseur – an Excellent Profession

Massage is one of the oldest methods of treatment in existence and there is a long tradition of massage training in Finland. Mr. Mauri Hartea founded a massage college as far back as 1893. He was acquainted with traditional massage techniques, which he combined with medical training. He admitted visually impaired students into his medical study groups as, in his opinion, visually impaired people were especially suited to train as masseurs because of their excellent sense of touch and trained memory. Massage courses primarily for visually impaired people started in 1940. The profession of masseur has been, and still is, an excellent profession for partially sighted and blind people.

The massage training which was on offer at the beginning of the 20th century was very varied in content. Training in massage was compulsory for medical students and was also taught to students on teacher training courses in the field of physical education. Massage was also an important part of services offered at spas during the time that the Finnish bath resort culture was developing and it has always been a part of physiotherapist training, albeit to a lesser degree in recent times.

Massage training is very varied in content, consisting of the basics and techniques of massage (classical massage, anatomy, physiology, social and health care subjects, physical education, surface heat, cold and hydrotherapies, gym instruction, customer service, first aid etc). In addition to the aforementioned topics, instruction is also given in skills needed for working life – skills such as Information Technology, Communication, Interaction, Informatics, Co-operation, and Entrepreneurship. Functional skills such as Braille, Mobility and Orientation, and Computer-based assistive technologies which are needed by a visually impaired person are also studied.

The course consists of fifty percent theory and fifty percent practical training. The practical element starts with giving massage to clients on the Arla Institute’s premises. Later on, the students undertake visits to companies and other organisations to give onsite massage. They also endeavour to participate in current events related to the field of massage.

On-the-job training takes place in locations which are suitable in terms of the student’s learning and future employment such as in a physical therapy centre in the student’s home municipality and during these training periods the student is guided by an experienced masseur or other massage professional.

In Finland, a qualification in massage is an official vocational qualification in the field of Social and Health Care. Passing the further vocational qualification in massage gives the successful candidate the formal competency of a trained masseur and the individual can be registered with the Health Care Legal Protection Centre as a trained masseur.

400 students pass the vocational training course in massage every year in Finland, with approximately 10 visually impaired masseurs graduating from the Arla Institute. Demand for massage seems to be increasing all the time. Young people, people of working age, as well as elderly people need the services of a masseur/masseuse. Athletes need massage to prevent exertion injuries and the working population in general often has problems caused by poor/insufficient work ergonomics. Massage also has a positive effect on physical complaints related to the ageing process.

Part of a masseur’s work also involves giving instruction and guidance in matters such as fitness centre practice and muscle stretching exercises, which form part of general muscle care. There is a lot of work for trained masseurs, most of whom are commonly self-employed.

Paula Seraidaris Vice Principal, Arla Institute, Finland   www.arlainst.fi

4. The current trend in Italy

The uniform model for a massage training course which is presently being developed in Vaasa is intended to be applicable in every European country. As is widely known, training courses in European countries differ in content and length. We believe that in step with European integration there should also be an integration and increased co-operation in professional fields, particularly in matters pertaining to people with a disability. A uniform model for massage training courses would be a step towards achieving such integration.

Massage courses in Italy still follow the ruling philosophy of the era in which they were conceived, namely that educational integration of visually impaired people was not feasible and training is therefore viewed as an opportunity to receive a general education and instruction in cultural matters rather than as being a means of gaining working-life skills. This being so, there is not much scope for obtaining professional skills. For this reason, a uniform model for massage training would provide a welcome opportunity to revise the curriculum and its content in the light of current labour market demands and the needs of society in general.

However, the legal situation in Italy places obstacles in the path of such a move. Most Italian visually impaired masseurs work in public health centres and their employment in such places is made possible solely as the result of having passed the training course enshrined in the Law Act no. 403:1971. No other massage qualification is recognised and it is therefore impossible for a masseur possessing any other qualification to work in public health centres. There is a contradictory state of affairs in Italy at the moment: there is an increasing trend within the health system towards employing only physiotherapists at the public health centres and yet Law Act no. 403:1971, which favours visually impaired massophysiotherapists, is still on the statute books.

Our organization is engaged in developing a new professional profile which can be used to enable massophysiotherapists to gain as equal a footing in public health centres as physiotherapists currently have – thus far without result.

It would greatly aid our situation if a European authority were to recognise the uniform model for a training course in massage such as the one at present being developed in Vaasa. If this does not happen, the opportunities for further development will be lost for visually impaired Italians.Despite the fact that the training course model in Vaasa could increase Italian participants’ chances both for self-employment and employment at public health centres as well as providing them with greater chances for mobility throughout Europe as a result of increased communication skills in English we have not, as yet, received any applications for a place on the course in Vaasa. We intend to continue trying to create interest in the course by stressing the above facts but the situation does not look encouraging at present.

Carlo Monti, Prof., Director , The Institute for Research, Training and Rehabilitation (I.Ri.Fo.R.)  Italy   www.uiciechi.it

5. A report from our Portuguese partner

We are proud to be a partner in the Project: “Supporting the creation of a uniform model for a European masseur training for visually impaired people”, and hope, together with our co-partners in this project, to create a solid base upon which a unified model for the training of visually impaired masseurs throughout Europe can be built. It is our common duty to work towards providing a promising future for all potential European masseurs – and even those beyond current European borders.

Since 1986 APEDV has been steadily turning out masseurs at the rate of approximately 6 per year. Most of them have obtained employment, mainly in the private sector. This is due principally to the fact that our course is not recognised in the public sector. We hope that the uniform training model we are helping to develop will soon be recognised at an EU level.

It is Portugal’s turn to host the next seminar to be held in our European network. The seminar, due to take place on the 15th-18th May, will bring together approximately 30 people whose aim it will be to discuss the next stage in our detailed planning programme. Thus far all has gone according to schedule. We hope to provide our partners with a suitable environment which is conducive to the decision-making process. The Portuguese weather during May should be kind and soothing enough for this.

Currently six of our students undergoing training and by the time our seminar takes place they should be in the practical phase of their studies. This involves placement at a clinic where they are placed until the beginning of 2004. If they perform well enough there is the possibility that they will be employed by the clinic.

Of our earlier batch of students, four obtained jobs as from the beginning of the year. It’s a great joy for them as well as for the institution and for those who made it possible. Ours is the only organization that provides blind people with courses in massage in Portugal. Our regret is that our training area is not large enough to provide the trainee with a much better environment. Nevertheless we try to make the best of what is currently available.

Assis Milton Rodrigues , President, APEDV , Associação Promotora De Emprego De Decifientes Visuais , Portugal   www.apedv.rcts.pt

6. Massage and Complementary Therapies

The RNC has been training masseurs for Employment/Self Employment since 1987.  During that period the programme has developed and diversified and many students have successfully progressed to employment/self employment.

In 1995 an initial contact was made with Lars Lind in Sweden and this was the beginning of our journey to partnership with colleagues in Europe.

From early meetings to discuss techniques we progressed to further consideration of professional standards and opportunities for students to work in European settings.  Participation in Aktivo 2000, an international association of blind and partially sighted masseurs and physiotherapists identified the need for the development of a European programme with common standards and curriculum.

We were fortunate that Swedish Vocational Institutet took a lead role in the Leonardo project to develop this.  The dialogue with partners in the development of this project has been a unique and valued learning experience for all concerned.

We look forward to the initial programme which is to take place in Vaasa and the opportunity to contribute to this.  Our students are very interested in these developments and the possibility of future international exchanges and employment opportunities.

Roisin Burge, Principal ,  Jane Crabtree, Team Leader – Remedial Therapy,  Royal National College for the Blind (RNC) , England   www.rncb.ac.uk