Turning Two!

Problems still abound for persons with disabilities (PWDs) in six of the countries in the world.

In Moldova, people with mental or intellectual disabilities are often vulnerable to forced medication, physical and sexual abuse, arbitrary detention, deprivation of privacy, and arbitrary removal of property.  And, once declared “incapable”, they no longer have the ability to engage in any legal relationships, such as to marry, divorce, conclude a work contract, own property, claim social benefits, consent a medical treatment or even appeal a guardianship order.

The family members of these people with mental or intellectual disabilities are also quick in filing a request to declare a person legally incapacitated because there would be an incentive that could be received.

In Viet Nam, most of the residents still believe that “disability is a punishment for a past sin.” There is still prejudice among the business owners on PWDs and only few basic services exist for the expatriates. Families of PWDs then would hide the latter out of shame, their opportunities remain unsuitable and poor1 and tourism is selective.

The leading cause of accidental death in Viet Nam also still remains to be the chief mode of transportation in the country: the small engine motorbike. Most buildings are not accessible and much of its roads are unsafe for wheelchairs.

In Poland, the local authorities do not always make budget allocations according to the per-capita regulations. They regard disability as a deficiency so most employers would prefer to pay fines to the National Fund for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled (Państwowy Fundusz Rehabilitacji Osób Niepełnosprawnych or PFRON) rather than adjust their work environments to the needs of the few PWDs. Some employers would go as far as “manipulating” PWDs with the most limiting disabilities to just sign a special contract that makes them official workers on paper.

It is also still unclear how the obligatory “one year of pre-school education” will be organized for children with intellectual disabilities there, especially in the rural areas. The assessment procedures for placing PWDs under guardianship are not sufficient2 and the statistical data treats PWDs as a homogenous group.

In Austria, not all PWDs receive adequate benefits. Those who became disabled before they embark on a career are on a disadvantage because rehabilitation (1) is contingent on the cause of the disability and (2) dominated by the cost/benefit principle3.

Private associations and organizations for disabled people would just supplement social rehabilitation benefits4.  The prices of goods and/or services cannot be deducted from and only a small proportion of all disabled children in Austria are able to attend integrative day nurseries or integration groups.

In Serbia, its media’s reporting on PWDs remains “pathetic.” No one in the country even knows how many disabled people can paint, direct, act, or practice some other kind of art! Its residents—many of them—rarely visits or sees poetry evenings or theatre plays by PWDs and topics like disabilities are not a priority in state competitions for culture or social policy.

In Puerto Rico, just over two percent of the residents receive Social Security Disability benefits. It also would take two years or so before benefiting from the Social Security Administration (SSA). But here’s a funny fact: Puerto Ricans can be awarded disability benefits due to “an inability to communicate in English.” It was sorted out by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) recently in the 218 cases between 2011 and 2013.

This is why The PWD Forum wishes to integrate special education in both the primary and secondary curriculum. Better yet, have sign language taught in schools so that PWDs and non-PWDs alike could communicate effectively with each other and eventually live in harmony. Little things such as the label “people with disabilities” could be automatically corrected5 if only SPED is inculcated in schools and sign language is just another means of communication for every one.

“Herein lies the real value of education. Advanced education may or may not make men and women more efficient; but it enriches personality, increases the wealth of the mind, and hence brings happiness. It is the finest insurance against old age, against the growth of physical disability, against the lack and loss of animal delights. How essential it is, then, in youth to acquire some intellectual or artistic tastes, in order to furnish the mind, to be able to live inside a mind with attractive and interesting pictures on the walls.” ~ William Lyon Phelps

1 Most are only equipped with handicraft-making skills.

2 The courts only impose plenary, rather than partial, guardianship for people with intellectual disabilities.

3 The cost-benefit principle is linked with one’s occupation. Thus, there would only be rehabilitation benefits if the probability of the person concerned re-commencing work is high.

4 In 1981, a national fund was set up in Austria to provide special assistance and rehabilitation measures.

5 As a rule, the nature of a person’s disability is unique to that particular person so it is more precise and prudent to refer someone with a physical or mental impairment as a “person with disability.” (Excerpt from the explanation of Jose Carillo last November 23, 2015)

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