How disability has been defined and understood in the Czech Republic is described in political, social and cultural context. The state of its law and disability policy has not yet been completed even after 27 years that it has been in transition from communism to democracy.
As such, there is no coherent definition of disability and/or “persons with disabilities” there. People with disabilities are referred to as “persons with changed labor ability” in employment law (No. 435/2004), “invalids” in social policy (No. 100/1988, amended in 2004 to “people with health disadvantages”), “people with health impairments” in health policy (No. 47/1997), “people with partial/full invalidity pension” (No. 155/1995) or “children with special needs” in education policy (No. 561/2004), and “people who due to their invalidity cannot perform gainful employment” (Medical Advisory Committee, 2003).
There is also a difference between the number of people who self-identify as having a disability, the number of people who qualify as disabled for the purpose of various benefits and compensations, and the number of people who are classified as fitting into one of three categories of disability (severely disabled, very severely disabled and very severely disabled with a companion). Many Czechs who have medical problems would rather refer to themselves as “ill” only since disability is a stigma in contemporary Czech society.
Disability issues would only be a part of existing statutes on employment, education, health care, housing, accessibility, and social welfare or rehabilitation there. They would be “generally mentioned” as a consequence of a social welfare model implemented in the past and still pervasive in the present.
The Government Board for People with Disabilities, for one, was established in 1991 through the resolution of the public administration authorities in the government and non-government sector. The Employment Act No. 1 of 19911 mentions disability as a protected category, defines sheltered workshops and qualifies employers eligible for governmental support.
Integrating children with disabilities at regular schools whenever possible is the aim of Education Act No. 29 of 19842. Providing social services and rehabilitation, on the other hand, are Social Services Act No. 100 of 1988 and Social Needs Act No. 482 of 1991.
The Social Benefits Act No. 117 of 1995 gives benefits including housing, transportation, rehabilitation aids, and unemployment. The Health Insurance Act No. 47 of 19973 guarantees free healthcare—including some technical and medical equipment—to PWDs, while the Building and Planning Act No. 50 of 19764 guarantees accessibility of environment.“
We, the ones who are challenged, need to be heard. To be seen not as a disability, but as a person who has and will continue to bloom. To be seen not only as a handicap, but as a well intact human being.” Robert M. Hensel
1 Amended as No. 435 of 2004
2 Amended as No. 561 of 2004
3Amended as No. 285 0f 2002
4Amended as No.83 of 1998