Tesserae of Knowledge' (in Greek, Psifides Gnosis) is a research project aimed at collecting, digitizing and disseminating material produced by disabled people and people with chronic illnesses who are active in literary or visual arts, sports, and the disability movement.
The rationale behind the project relies on the principle that society can form a realistic idea about disabled people through their work and views, rather through non-disabled people's beliefs about disability. The literature suggests that non-disabled people often hold stereotypes about disability. For example, a number of non-disabled people believes that disabled people are passive, they feel pity for themselves, and they only need money in order to receive treatment. However, the majority of disabled people participates actively in social life, and wishes to be employed, have a family, make decisions about their lives and enjoy their rights in a society that does not feel pity for them; rather it supports them in order to have access in all activities.
In the context of the project, a digital archive was developed. The archive comprises of 'digital portfolios' for each person, entailing his/her biography, representative work (e.g. poems, literary texts, artwork, songs, videos, documentaries), and interviews. The digital portfolios can be used by anyone who is interested in disability issues, and particularly by teachers, as part of the curriculum. To this end, a search tool was developed, to facilitate teachers locate material that is suitable for different subjects, thematic areas, and class levels. The project website provides research publications that may prove helpful for teachers, student teachers and parents who wish to be informed about the theoretical framework of the project and its implementation into teaching practice. Finally, there are links to journals, educational associations, public and other disability related services.
The project runs a number of activities, such as professional development programmes for teachers, school based seminars, school based interventions addressed to teachers and students, presentations at conferences, and publications. A significant number of teachers has participated in seminars or professional development programmes. Through short lectures, discussions about the material, and support at school level, teachers have the opportunity to fully understand the perceptions, wishes and experiences of disabled people. Eventually, they develop the necessary knowledge, attitudes and skills which will enable them to develop small scale projects aimed at (re)constructing the concept of disability at school.
A number of the project activities take place in the Inclusive Education Research Lab, situated at premises of the University of Cyprus (old campus). The Lab houses significant material gathered during the project (for instance, material which was developed by disabled people and people with chronic illnesses, autobiographies, poems, music and works of art, short films, newsletters, assistive technology devices, children's literature books and educational material for various subjects of the curriculum) and is an educational and research facility for disability related activities (for instance, teacher training and raising awareness programs addressed to children and adults).
The project 'Tesserae of Knowledge' was initiated in 2011, thanks to the funding provided by the University of Cyprus, and it continues its educational and social contribution to date.