Czech athletes

Able to put the Czech Republic in the sports’ map are four of its citizens with disabilities.

Jiří Ježek has lost his right leg in a car accident nine years before he turned to competitive cycling as a hobby. Since then, he has bagged gold medals after another—in the 2000 Sydney Paralympic Games, in the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games, in the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games, and in the 2012 London Paralympic Games. He has competed against non-disabled riders—the most notable of which was during the Král Šumavy, a 250-kilometer track1—and has claimed the UCI Paralympic World Champion in 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, and 2011.

Motivated by Joseph Lachman2, Jiří Ježek has written the book “Frajer” (“Ace”) in 2008 “to give hope not only to the similarly disabled people on the grounds of his life story.” He has founded the Czech hockey team of the disabled, supported the AMSA Czech HendiGolf, and backed other charities that help disadvantaged children and promote healthy-living.

Martin Kovář is a swimmer impaired because of a spinal cord injury. He has brought home three gold medals during the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games and created three world records. He used to be the adviser of former Prime Minister Vladimír Špidla, and with this experience, Martin Kovář has engaged himself actively in the Paralympic movement.

Běla Hlaváčková is another Czech Paralympic swimmer. But she is not just any other swimmer. She is the winner of five gold medals in the 50m freestyle during the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games and the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games.

Petra Kurková is the best deaf sportswoman in the world. She has won a gold medal for the supercombination at the Deaflympics in Salt Lake City in 2007; brought home two golds, one silver and one bronze medals from Swedish Sundsvall; and won four gold medals at the Olympic Games in Davos in 1999.

“Somebody will always try to find some shortcut to victory. But I believe that those cheaters are not happy inside, they must live with the lie.” ~ Jiří Ježek

1Jiří Ježek won second place then—within just a second between him and the winner!

2Impaired, Joseph Lachman was the silver medalist during the 1988 Seoul Paralympic Games.

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of Akis Van Doorn

Czech Republic

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

On Inclusivity

The thought of people–with disabilities or none–learning together excites The PWD Forum more than ever!

The idea, which was initiated by The Teacher’s Gallery, would be discussed in a conference next year. Its another purpose is to bring together teachers, education administrators, advocates, businesses and politicians for the first time for this purpose.

“We are people like them and that with the right support, we are capable of learning and bettering ourselves and contributing to society just like persons without disabilities,” shared Benjamin Almeda-Lopez, special project officer of The Teacher’s Gallery, in an email.

For all those good intentions, however, The PWD Forum still would rather wait if inclusive education would result in a just society for PWDs and non-PWDs alike.

“There are many benefits to inclusion of students with disabilities in ‘normal’ schools,” Almeda-Lopez added. “For one, the students without disabilities are able to interact with PWDs on a daily basis.”

This interaction, if successful, can help PWDs—particularly the children—develop greater belief in themselves, Almeda-Lopez further argued. Every Filipino would have the same opportunities, too, preventing “alienating and disadvantaging PWD students socially, academically and emotionally.”

But this would just give “normal” people a reason to feel that they’re better that their counterparts. Worse, the former may also think that they are just handing favors to PWDs that are in their school.

The PWD Forum is pushing for the integration of special education in the basic and secondary curriculum in the country. It has reiterated that after The PWD Forum turned one in the blogosphere and even after it turned two. The PWD Forum has also made a case on the necessity, benefit, and practicality of sign language if only it is taught to every one.

“We have a responsibility to ensure that every individual has the opportunity to receive a high-quality education, from prekindergarten to elementary and secondary, to special education, to technical and higher education and beyond.” ~ Jim Jeffords

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of teach.org

Opening, Minds, Opening Hearts

With the end-goal of promoting inclusive education in the Philippines, The Teacher’s Gallery is going to hold a summit—the first of its kind—that would empower teachers’ role in nation building.

“There are two main purposes for the summit. The first is to promote awareness for inclusive education in the Philippines, primarily for PWDs so that people are aware that we are people like them and that with the right support we are capable of learning and bettering ourselves and contributing to society just like persons without disabilities. This is part of our theme, I Am You,” shared Benjamin Almeda-Lopez, special projects officer of The Teacher’s Gallery, in an email.

“The second is to form a community out of teachers, education administrators, advocates, businesses and politicians by bringing many of them together for the first time at our event. We hope that by uniting all of these groups at our summit, we can form many new working partnerships between them beyond the three days of our conference,” he added.

The Teacher’s Gallery aims to “address the current challenges confronting the educational system in the Philippines.” It is advocating interaction between students with disabilities and to those without in “normal” schools.

“For one, the students without disabilities are able to interact with PWDs on a daily basis. This lets students without disabilities become familiar with their PWD peers and hopefully helps them become more accepting, tolerant and understanding as a result. Interacting successfully with students without disabilities can also help PWD children develop greater belief in themselves.”

“From an academic standpoint, inclusive education can prevent cases that still occur  where ‘separate but equal’ facilities for PWD students are actually below what is required to meet the needs of PWD students. It ensures that all children of the Philippines have the same opportunities to succeed and prevents alienating and disadvantaging PWD students socially, academically and emotionally provided both teachers and fellow students are willing to accommodate them.”

“The biggest change in the education of children starts through transforming the lives of teachers. Teachers have the power to positively change the lives of children. Every student’s success in learning is a step to contributing towards a better future for all.” ~ The Teacher’s Gallery

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of W-Dare as suggested by Benjamin Almeda-Lopez

Chronic Illnesses in Netherlands

In 2002, chronic diseases accounted for 88% of all deaths in the Netherlands.

Back then, overweight and obesity has been the culprit. It was even projected that the prevalence of these health conditions would increase in both men and women over the next 10 years.

But overweight and obesity continued to “soar” in the Netherlands; one in 10 people in the country suffered from the aforementioned diseases in 2012. Type 2 Diabetes1, high blood pressure2, degenerative joint disease, and cardiovascular disease3 were still developed; and anxiety, depression and poor mental health grew more common.

Through advances in technology, however, chronic diseases in the Netherlands could now be controlled. Diabetes could be kept in check through various smartphone applications such as the BG Monitor Diabetes, which can keep a photo log of meals; Diabetes in Check, which can scan barcodes on packaged foods to immediately get their nutrition information; and Diabetic Connect, which make connectivity to the larger diabetes community possible.

Speaking of connectivity, mySugr Diabetes Logbook can track meals necessary for HbA1c reading. Insulin dosages and blood sugar measurements could also be logged in Glucose Buddy and OnTrack Diabetes. Children with this chronic illness could benefit, too, from the “simple and intuitive” interface of the BlueLoop as well as with the games and fun illustrations of Carb Counting with Lenny.

High blood pressure, on the other hand, could be regulated by the sound therapy HIRREMTM (high resolution, relational, resonance-based electroencephalic mirroring) using audible tones to reflect the brain’s pattern of electrical frequencies. Also labeled Brainwave OptimizationTM, the non-invasive neurotechnology can correct neural imbalances of the hemispheres in the brain.

Degenerative joint disease cannot be cured; the pain can only be eased and the swelling reduced. Joints with end-stage disease, however, can be remedied with either arthrodesis (fusion of the joint) or prosthetic joint replacement. UW-Madison researchers have also though of inhibiting the activity of cathepsin K and cathepsin S (TRAP) to nurse the disease somehow.

Incidences of cardiovascular disease can also be lessened with CADence™. It is quick, noninvasive, no-needle, and a zero-radiation test to “look” for Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) risk factors in patients by the sound of blood flow in the coronary arteries.

Anxiety could already be confronted with virtual reality nowadays, too. Depression could be treated with Deep TMS [Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation]4 and poor mental health could be improved with telemental health services.

“It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.” -Muhammad Ali

 

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of EU CHRODIS

1Type 2 diabetes causes cells to change, making them resistant to the hormone insulin. Blood sugar cannot be taken up by the cells then, resulting in high blood sugar and for the cells to gradually fail.

2Having a large body size increases blood pressure. Excess fat may also damage the body’s kidneys.

3Excess weight may cause the heart to “work harder” to be able to send blood to all the cells in the body.

4Not unlike the technology in a magnetic resonance imaging, TMS works through a mounted helmet that generates an electrical pulse, too. But the patients cycle through two-second pulses followed by 20 seconds of rest for each sequence—called a “Train”—in this method, and is repeated for about 20 minutes. It should be done daily for about six weeks, followed by a three week tapering off period.

Help in Netherlands

Twelve organizations in the Netherlands have been taking care of persons with disabilities (PWDs) in the country since the 90s.

The first was the Soft Tulip Foundation in 1991. It aimed to deliver rehabilitation to multiple disabled children, elderly, people with mental health problems, and people with learning disabilities.

The next year, the European Co-operation in Anthroposophical Curative Education and Social Therapy (ECCE) has engaged about 400 parents’ associations, professional organisations and centres for vocational training. It believed that “all human beings have the right to offer their contribution to society through work.”

For those afflicted with spinal cord injury, the Dutch-Flemish Paraplegia Society (NVDG), was created in 1993 to (1) encourage cooperation between individuals, (2) engage in spinal cord injury rehabilitation in the Netherlands and Flanders, (3) exchange ideas and experiences with people from other countries who deal with spinal cord injury rehabilitation; and (4) know more scientific work on spinal cord injury rehabilitation.

Representation of the poor PWDs in the world had been the goal in mind of the Dutch Coalition on Disability and Development when it was formed in 2001. It had a “twin-track approach” then to strengthen the position of people with disabilities in Southern countries: point mainstream development organisations toward incorporating PWDs in their development programmes and policies on one hand, and (2) call for specific support for some persons with disabilities through policy development on the other. Both were envisioned so PWDs in the country will be fully included on an equal basis with others.

Six years after, The Coalition for Inclusion was established for people with mental, physical or mental disability as well as the elderly who are experiencing temporary or long-term restrictions. It wished to promote an inclusive society.

Other organizations for PWDs in the Netherlands are Dedicon, Everyone in, Dutch Association of Healthcare Providers for People with Disabilities (De Vereniging Gehandicaptenzorg Nederland), Jopla, Visio, Karuna Foundation, and MEE NL .

“If I regarded my life from the point of view of the pessimist, I should be undone. I should seek in vain for the light that does not visit my eyes and the music that does not ring in my ears. I should beg night and day and never be satisfied. I should sit apart in awful solitude, a prey to fear and despair. But since I consider it a duty to myself and to others to be happy, I escape a misery worse than any physical deprivation.” – Helen Keller

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of Brian Calligy

Netherlands

Change has already come in The Netherlands.

The social security system in this country is designed to encourage persons with disabilities (PWDs) here to keep working and earn their keep. As a result, disability rates have gone down from 100,000 in 2000 to 21,000 in 2006. The disability risk has decreased, too: from 1.55 in 2000 to 0.46 in 2006.

Employers, on the other hand, are required to monitor their sick employees’ sick leave; hold a sick worker’s job open for two years; develop, finance, and implement plans for rehabilitation; pay for certain medical treatments; make workplace accommodations; and find new jobs for the workers they no longer have a commensurable employment to give. They must contract with private companies in fulfilling these tasks in exchange of incentives a “differentiated system of contributions” will bring.

Article 1 of the Dutch Constitution prohibits discrimination on any grounds. So The Netherlands has taken precautionary measures to curb unnecessary medical treatment. It has invested and improved the cooperation of the occupational safety and health care providers and the medical care providers to, in effect, prevent work-related health conditions and promote reintegration.

Stipulated on December 1, 2003, the Act on Equal Treatment of the Disabled and Chronically Ill People has banned making distinctions in the recruitment of people in the country, may they be with disabilities or not. The law also gives disabled people the right to the adaptations necessary to enable them to participate fully in society.

Care, support, and treatment for PWDs here are funded through public health insurance1. Accessibility is also mandated2 and “special benefits” are given3. PWDs here have also somewhere to go to if they need help in re-entering the job market4.

The Netherlands is also “efficient” in screening “applicants’ to avoid providing benefits to healthy recipients and denying benefits to unhealthy applicants5. A citizen can only be marked as “fully disabled” if their impairments are terminal, if their “theoretical loss of income” is greater than 80%, if they require institutionalization, or if they are already in “steep decline”6.

“When you hear the word ‘disabled,’ people immediately think about people who can’t walk or talk or do everything that people take for granted. Now, I take nothing for granted. But I find the real disability is people who can’t find joy in life and are bitter.” ~ Teri Garr

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of Kanaal van Ambassadeur2009 

1Exceptional Medical Expenses Act (AWBZ)

2Act on Facilities for the Disabled

3Disablement Benefits Act (WAO); Self-Employed Persons Disablement Benefits Act (WAZ); Disablement Assistance Act for Handicapped Young Persons (WAJONG)

4Disability Reintegration Act (REA)

5Source: Enrica Croda, Jonathan Skinner, and Laura Yasaitis, “An International Comparison of the Efficiency of Government Disability Programs” (Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research, 2013), pp. 1, 29

6Source: “Work and Income According to the Labor Capacity Act,” Dutch Social Insurance Institute (WIA), May 11, 2015, and personal correspondence with Carla van Deaursen, senior advisor, UWV, May 18, 2015