Sun, Jul 01, 2012 - Page 8 News List

Government building barriers to the disabled

By Wang Yuling 王幼玲

After five years of preparation, the new system for determining who is physically and mentally disabled and for evaluating the needs of the disabled will take effect on July 11.

On June 11, the League of Welfare Organizations for the Disabled opened an information hotline, and most of the disabled people or their family members who have called in have asked why they need to have their disability reappraised, since they have already been determined to have a permanent disability. That is a question we cannot answer, because the new system has lost its legal rationale.

In the past, someone who was functionally impaired or suffered from an anatomical loss or abnormality was considered disabled, thus basing the assessment on medical standards. However, the new system uses the WHO’s definition, which in addition to looking at bodily organs and mental impairment also wants to understand the impact on a person’s activities and social participation, in addition to measuring environmental factors.

Simply put, the international community is of the opinion that if a person cannot easily perform activities due to a physical impairment and therefore has problems participating in society, providing support in the living environment will diminish the obstacles raised by the disability.

The change of this concept has changed our view of disabled people. In the past, we thought that disabled people required constant rehabilitation and stressed that people can overcome nature with individual effort. However, the new system acknowledges that individual efforts at rehabilitation can be exhausted, and the government must look at the relationship between external environmental and social factors and the disabled individual. It is also responsible for building an obstacle-free living environment to diminish the factors interfering with the social lives of the disabled to give them the opportunity to live an independent and dignified life.

Implementing the new system for determining disability is valuable in that it reshapes our perception and makes us understand that anyone is at risk of becoming disabled. It is also valuable because it highlights the special characteristics of being disabled and stresses that the behavior of every person can be a factor in creating obstacles for the disabled.

For example, a visually impaired person with a guide dog is able to move around freely and live an independent life, but as soon as he or she encounters a prejudiced person, that individual creates an obstacle to the visually impaired person’s social participation.

However, the Ministry of the Interior and the Department of Health are only focusing on how to create an assessment tool and on the assessment process, without doing any overall planning or making policies for dealing with obstacles created by environmental factors. Instead, they are making massive cuts to the evaluation part of the system, thus coming up with an inferior solution.

Originally, the new assessment system offered an opportunity for reviewing the obstacles in our living environment. We also need a comprehensive review of laws and systems and to compile environmental factors that are a hindrance to disabled people living free and independent lives.

If the government does not take action, try to inform the public about the obstacles to the disabled, investigate environmental factors that create obstacles and does not eliminate them, then the new certificate for the physically and mentally disabled would have to list the government as the biggest of all environmental obstacles.

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