How would you describe the situation of the disabled in our country – what can be done to make their life better?
If you are a foreigner visiting Poland, you can get the impression that there are no disabled and handicapped people in our country. In almost every West European country you can see numerous people in wheelchairs doing shopping in a supermarket and enjoying a film at a cinema. Mentally handicapped children and adults catch nobody’s sick attention. Unfortunately, this is not the case in my homeland. Here, the disabled are perceived as equally important members of society as the able-bodied. They are not supposed to be seen or heard.
Their situation is incredibly difficult – they get only menial jobs, if any, they cannot leave home due to various architectural obstacles, they are even denied costly treatment and rehabilitation.
The disabled find it hard to make ends meet. They receive very low pensions and benefits, which makes their rehabilitation virtually impossible. Some of them are able to work and would love to earn a living, but very few companies decide upon employing a disabled person. All they are offered are simple, physical jobs, far below their qualifications. As a result, the disabled often continue living at home; they cannot afford their own cars, either. Due to this fact, they never have an opportunity to become independent; they are always forced to rely on other people. When their parents die, they end up at old people’s homes.
Money is not the only cause why the blind, paraplegics and other physically handicapped people cannot move around. High kerbs, lifts not big enough to hold a wheelchair, poor quality prostheses and so on make the disabled feel like prisoners. Even in big cities where there exist certain facilities for the disabled, like ramps for wheelchair users and ringing traffic lights, you will not see many of these people. They prefer to stay at home because they cause others’ irritation being slow and often having to ask strangers for help, etc. It is not surprising they do not want to go to the cinema if they are offered uncomfortable seats right in front of the screen.
Another problem is the attitude of the able-bodied towards both physically and mentally handicapped. Their basic rights are violated, their private life is criticized, and finally, these people are objects of pity and ridicule. The media are largely to blame, as they do not create a positive image of the disabled. Paraolympic Games are held off camera, commercials compare reckless drivers to psychiatric patients in straitjackets. Not many members of the public protest against such discrimination, they find such scenes a very good joke.
I firmly believe our attitude towards handicapped members of our society has to change. We do not think about the disabled until an accident or a debilitating illness happens to us – and it can strike us any time. Only then do we realize how difficult or even impossible it is to climb steep stairs, how it hurts when all our friends leave us when we fall mentally ill.
The situation of the disabled in our country is very bad but I do hope that it can improve if we all make an effort. A lot can be done by architects, social workers, therapists, doctors, but the biggest changes can be made by each of us. It is worth trying, as no one knows how we are going to feel tomorrow or in 50 years’ time.
Pytanie, które może zadać egzaminator
Could you give some examples how we can help the disabled?
Some time ago I saw an experiment: architecture students had to sit in wheelchairs and it was only then when they actually saw how architecturally unfriendly our cities are. I think such classes should be obligatory for all students and employees who deal with the handicapped. It would also be a good idea to feature more characters presenting disabled people in soap operas. They are watched by millions of people and to some extent they shape people’s mentalities.
disabled – niepełnosprawny, dotknięty kalectwem
perceive – odebrać w pewien sposób, postrzegać
kerb – krawężnik
straitjacket – kaftan bezpieczeństwa