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Workshop “How special are your needs? Can we Help? Steam for an inclusive Europe

From April 15th to 18th, 2021, the Erasmus+ project "How Special are your needs? Can we help? Steam for an inclusive Europe" is taking place. VivaLab Porto wanted to be part of this initiative and, on April 16th, visited the Rodrigues de Freitas School Group to understand how we can help and include all kinds of people in the STEAM field.


  1. Rodrigues de Freitas School

  2. Eugénio de Andrade School

  3. Reflection


1. Rodrigues de Freitas School

During this project, we heard various testimonies from different countries such as Belgium, Greece, Italy, Slovenia, Sweden, and Portugal. Rodrigues de Freitas School is a reference for bilingual education for blind students, equipped with various tools prepared for these students.

The objective of this project is to raise awareness among schools and educational communities about the physical, communication, and social barriers faced by people with different profiles, with the aim of promoting and fostering inclusion.

In the morning session, we had the opportunity to get to know each of the participating schools and the work done over time with the students, awarding each one of them. Afterwards, the group was divided into several workshops, and VivaLab took an interest in the "Sensory Room" workshop. This workshop focused on various types of products designed for visually impaired people, including everyday utensils such as food measurers, leisure items like the pen that dictated the letters we had in our hands, health-related tools such as the thermometer and scale, educational resources including mathematical tools, and we also had the opportunity to see braille machines and how they communicate with others. In this workshop, we were challenged with blindfolded activities to perform tasks that we find simple in our daily lives but are challenging for these individuals, such as dressing, folding, punching holes in paper for filing, or filling a glass with water.

After a short break, we had the opportunity to hear various testimonies from different countries and areas, some of them from visually impaired individuals, proving to us that even so, we are capable of achieving what we truly want and can be successful, serving as a reference for others.

In the afternoon, we had the opportunity to interact with games designed for visually impaired people, specifically designed with textures and printed in 3D or cut with lasers. What struck us the most was the opportunity to play these games with blind students and experience how to play without the sense of sight.

This experience encompasses inclusive product design and highlights the social opportunities that can arise in a FabLab when creating products for people with special and particular needs. It is an area with great potential, as it offers the chance to design innovative solutions that promote accessibility and autonomy for all.

When talking about inclusive design or universal design, it is important to remember that nothing can be conceived without the interaction and feedback from those who will be directly benefiting from the invention. This participatory process is crucial, as it ensures that products are truly useful and effective for their future users. This collaboration helps identify specific needs and find creative solutions that cater to all audiences equitably.

Through this approach, designers can contribute to a more inclusive society, where everyone has access to products and services that improve their quality of life and promote equal opportunities. And FabLabs can have a significant impact in this area as they are accessible places where anyone can make almost anything.

2. Eugénio de Andrade School

On the second day of the event, we had the opportunity to visit the Eugénio de Andrade School, a school more dedicated to children with hearing impairments.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by an 11-year-old girl with visual impairments, who told us a bit about herself and her lifestyle. It was a long and interesting conversation for the VivaLab representatives, and we learned that our dreams have no limits, even with some obstacles along the way.

Then, we attended a class taught by a teacher with hearing impairments, during which we learned more about the history of sign language and the alphabet adapted for these individuals. We were able to play tic-tac-toe and adapted word search games for visually impaired people.

After a short break, we attended a lecture with testimonies from people with deaf-blindness, expressing their personal and professional experiences.

3. Reflection

It was an enriching experience for the VivaLab participants, and we believe it will help us in the future both professionally and personally.


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