‘What inclusion is a 10-year waiting list?’
A woman whose brother has been waiting to attend a day centre for 10 years expressed frustration at the lack of human resources as she addressed a seminar which soon turned into an emotional debate.
A frustrated Melanie Magri explained that after 10 years waiting for a reply, her family was told her intellectually disabled brother, who needs 24-hour care, will be able to attend a day centre only when and if the resources are available.
“What inclusion is this?” she asked, during a question and answer debate held between a group of disabled activists and representatives of the three main political parties at the University of Malta.
Referring to Ms Magri’s question, Family Minister Chris Said said some disabled people required a tailored programme.
“We have found individual programmes for others, and until there is one person who is not seen to, we’ll keep working.”
During the seminar, organised by Breaking Limits and the Department of Youth and Community Studies, disabled people spoke about the challenges they face in several sectors, including employment and sport, with Dr Said, Labour spokesman Carmelo Abela and AD spokeswoman Claire Azzopardi Lane.
Insisting that full inclusion was a right not a request, Rhoda Garland, from Breaking Limits, questioned the accessibility to buildings, information and transport.
Referring to the Maltese speech synthesiser unveiled last year, Dr Said admitted that not enough had been done. However, he added that changing all existing buildings to make them accessible was impossible and only accessibility in new places could be ensured.
But Labour spokesman Carmelo Abela insisted that the National Commission for Disabled Persons should have enough resources to provide feedback to the planning authority in time.
“I also cannot understand how there are some new buildings that are still not accessible... and to reach these buildings, you need to access roads which are not always accessible.
“A case in point is Valletta, which is definitely not accessible for all,” he said.
Dr Azzopardi Lane said AD would ensure spaces were environmen-tally friendly and there would be a disability procurement officer who ensured accessibility.
On sports, AD would propose a section in every club set up for the participation of the disabled, such as hand cycling and wheelchair basketball.
A spokesman from Breaking Limits noted that disabled people were highly unrepresented when it came to tertiary education.
But the minister said that compared to other European countries, Malta was one of the countries with the lowest percentage of disabled who did not attend mainstream schools.
He mentioned the introduction of disability studies at the University and said once these studies were introduced in different faculties, Malta would have a better understanding of the challenges faced by disabled people.
Questions were also asked about measures to increase employment skills for the disabled and reduce expenses for employers.
Dr Said said despite having some 1,300 disabled people in the labour market, others were still finding it difficult to get a job.
He said the government, NGOs and local councils should lead by example, adding that 80 people had been employed with local councils.