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” 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

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.

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

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

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

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