We wanted the year 2012 to represent a new opportunity. An opportunity for a change, a step in the right direction. The opportunity to visit events should be an opportunity provided to all, from volunteers to those whose creative drive contributed to the projects, aimed at integrating the handicapped. An opportunity also arose for companies dealing with the daily hurdles of the disabled, and an opportunity for rehabilitation employment programmes. It was an opportunity for all of us to participate and to work for a better and more accessible image of the town.
With that in mind, several collaborative initiations came to life. With the help of numerous associations dealing with disabled, which help with the integration of the disabled in society through rehab programmes, events, workshops, and campaigns set in the public eye of the Maribor, we managed to involve several significant projects into our programme. The initiation was named Culture enables. 40 cultural institutions from Maribor were put to a thorough test, the results and images of which can be found on the ECoC event calendar. Events were labelled with special icons with the intention of helping the handicapped prepare for the circumstances, which arise when visiting a certain event. Cultural-ecological fellowship Smetumet rearranged 18 locations across Maribor in order to ensure a spatial opportunity for all.
With Artistic Interventions, Smetumet tried to impose the openness in terms of spreading the awareness, tackling stereotypes and taboos, and diminishing prejudice, while also igniting public discourse on the matter.
Artists with their vision, on the other hand, made sure that the European Capital of Culture was not a place of exclusion, but first and foremost an opportunity for all. Dance Centre Maribor (Kulturno društvo centra plesa), with Ajda Pfifer as an expert psychologist, organised an unprecedented international dance festival of the deaf, entitled Heartbeat Hears the Beat. The festival served as an incredible global milestone in the treatment and integration of the hearing impaired. Rok Vilčnik, author and theatre director, presented a performance entitled Heart Exhibition, a joint venture with VDC Sonček. The show included actors with cerebral palsy. Simon Šerbinek from the Paraplegic Association of Northern Styria created the performance Per Aspera Ad Astra, which combined the language of drama, music, film, and dance. Photographer Andrej H. Štruc put on display his collection of photos of the blind and visually impaired in an exhibition entitled stereOTIP. A project entitled Culture and literature for all by Risa Institute employed tutors of easier reading and presented new special editions of the classics Visoko Chronicles and Romeo and Juliet. Artist and director Maya Milenovic Workman presented Guernica Continuum, in which she gave equal opportunity to professional actors and dancers as well as those with special needs, thus offering them a chance to display their talents.
The renewed homepage of the European Capital of Culture 2012 offered adjustments for the blind and visually impaired and was therefore supported with key standards and applications, making content accessible without visual distractions. With the use of screen reading programme, the blind and visually impaired were able to surf our websites freely.
Moreover, the possibility of active participation was opened for all who wished to participate in the ECC as volunteers. Education was not the determining factor, since the project was open to everyone older than 15 years who had the desire and curiosity, and who applied by visiting the following website. By applying, the candidates were offered the opportunity to acquire new work experience, obtain insight into the organization of a massive project, receive free tickets to selected events, as well as free public transport, snacks, and much more. The European Capital of Culture should be an opportunity for all. The door to the events was wide open, regardless of whether people visited by bike or in a wheelchair.