This profile was prepared when Piotr Pawlowski was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1996.
The New Idea
In reaction to the isolation and stigmatization that he felt after his accident and recognizing that separate does not mean equal, Piotr Pawlowski is spearheading an effort to mainstream disabled Poles by giving them access to the same education facilities that their nondisabled peers have. Piotr realizes that discrimination against disabled people will not end until society changes its attitudes and becomes more sensitive to their special needs. Therefore, he has chosen Polish schools as his battlefield. He has developed a special curriculum that is designed to educate teachers and school administrators. Piotr is convinced that until the attitudes of these people change, disabled students will find it nearly impossible to attend "normal" schools, regardless of whether the law officially gives them access to the schools. Piotr is also setting up a national resource center and hotline for disabled people so that they may have full access to the resources currently available to them in Poland. He believes this will help ease their sense of isolation and make it possible for them to network with one another. In addition, he is involved in planning a new housing estate, where ten percent of the apartments will be specially equipped for disabled tenants. This will be the first such housing project in Poland. Not satisfied with just helping disabled people, Piotr has also begun the first national campaign for the prevention of spinal cord injuries. He hopes to reduce the number of spinal cord injuries due to carelessness.