Ever less barriers” “

A review of European experiences with the disabled " "" "

Many awareness-raising projects are being promoted in various countries during the “European Year of the Disabled”. We present some of them below. Denmark A highly integrated system for the support of disabled persons exists in Denmark. The funding of this system occurs mainly through state and local taxes, especially privileging those aspects linked to rehabilitation and technical aids. Provision is made, among other things, for welfare benefits for the disabled, ad hoc publications, special principles for the realization and standardization of aids according to ISO classification (quality certification). A free database with many options for seeking technical aids is available on the website www.hmi.dk. Erland Winterberg – Director Danish Centre for Technical Aids for Rehabilitation and Education – Taastrup) Spain CEAPAT is an agency of the Ministry of Labour, established in 1989, which coordinates the research and development of technologies for the assistance of the disabled in Spain. This agency works on the basis of special national three-year plans that have succeeded each other over the last twenty years or so, in conformity with the latest European developments in terms of assistance to the disabled, new technologies, clinical research and research in the field of aid technology and information science. The Spanish model has focused on the partnership between the producers of aids for the disabled, users and authorities and especially concentrated its efforts on the standardization of products. Recently a white paper on accessibility has been promoted. One of the still unresolved problems is the marked fragmentation of responsibilities at the institutional level; legislation in this area needs to be improved. CEAPAT makes available on the internet (on the website www.ceapat.org) a data bank on aids similar to that proposed by the Italian portal Siva (www.welfare.gov.it/siva) (see further below). Ana Sanchez Salcedo – Information Specialist of Ceapat (Centro Estatal de Autonomia Personal y de Aydas Tècnicas – Ministerio de Trabajo e Asuntos Sociales – Madrid) Holland IRV is an independent Dutch institute that has concentrated its activity for many years on assistance to the disabled. It works in liaison with other institutions and agencies. Dutch legislation on disabled persons is very advanced. It contains provisions guaranteeing disabled persons equal opportunities and treatment, with especially innovative solutions in the fields of education and access to jobs. The system however is now subject to a series of changes, such as the progressive shifting of responsibilities from the public to the private sector. It also suffers from a lack of funding and a great fragmentation of responsibilities due to the presence of many competing local authorities. A large number of aids for the disabled are available in the Netherlands. Their suppliers are also numerous, though their producers are limited to just a few firms. The centres for information on what aids are available are various; they work in a positive regime of mutual competition. Internet is regarded as a great opportunity that needs to be exploited, even though the disabled users with direct access to it are still few in number. Harry Knops – IRV (Institute for Rehabilitation Research) – Hoensbroek Ireland The Irish situation in terms of assistance to the disabled is still far from optimal. In 1996 a government report condemned the treatment of the disabled by the institutions, making no less than 140 recommendations to improve their conditions. Between 1997 and 1999 several laws were approved; they removed some forms of discrimination against disabled persons in the workplace and made provision for equal access in schools and universities. Unfortunately between 2001 and 2002 the climate deteriorated slightly, giving rise to two laws judged negatively by the disabled. In this regard, a certain sense of frustration is being felt today, even though steps are being taken to address the lack of data banks on aids for the disabled; a project for a web portal to be opened by the end of 2003 is currently being developed. Ger Craddock – Central Remedial Clinic – Dublin Italy www.welfare.gov.it/siva is the website of ‘Siva’, the internet portal on technologies for the independence and social integration of persons with disabilities. It was developed by the Fondazione Don Gnocchi, as part of Italy’s programme for the European Year for persons with disabilities, on behalf of the Ministry of Welfare. The portal contains a systematic catalogue of the products available on the market of aids to persons with disabilities: a detailed technical file is dedicated to the various aids (over 7,000), with images, information on the firms that produce them, and references to studies, evaluations and experiences which help to identify the most suitable solutions for each individual case. It is also possible to find on the site accounts of actual experiences by persons with disabilities who have succeeded in solving particular problems by reorganizing their own living environment, by adopting technical aids, and by inventing new solutions. There’s also a library (comprising scientific studies, manuals, instruments of work, lessons on line), a guide to technical aids, a telephone hotline for the counseling of users, the possibilities of “meetings on line” for the presentation of new products and technologies, a section called “News of the portal”, coupled with sections devoted to the views of visitors and a Forum for discussion with all the other navigators on the site. ( Fondazione don Gnocchi) European wheelchair basketball championships The final phase of the European wheelchair basketball championships will be hosted by the towns of Sassari and Porto Torres, in Sardinia (Italy), from 19 to 29 June 2003. The event, organized by the Italian Federation of sport for the disabled (European Committee), will be covered live by the website www.basketincarrozzina.it. The Championships will involve 12 national teams. Only the first five classified will qualify for the Paraolimpics in Athens 2004. The competing teams are as follows: Italy, Spain, Turkey, Germany, France, Great Britain, Israel, Sweden, Holland, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Poland. Special Olympics in Dublin The Special Olympics 2003, the world summer Games involving 7000 mentally handicapped athletes, 2000 coaches, 28,000 family members and 30,000 volunteers will be held for the first time in Europe, in Dublin, from 16 to 19 June. A total of 160 countries will be represented at the Games, and the sporting events in which the athletes will compete will be 18. The Special Olympics were founded thirty years ago by the Kennedy family with the aim of enhancing the various skills of persons with mental disabilities through sport and promoting their integration in society. This year is the first time the Games have been held outside the USA. The Games, explain the organizers, “may provide an occasion to effectively transmit a message of social solidarity which, on the basis of sport, may foster greater attention to and respect for those suffering from mental handicaps and promote a culture of respect and inclusion”. The medals and the results, they explain, “are not the main objective for the participation of the special athletes. For the girls and boys present in Dublin, it will be a victory in itself to share an exciting experience, rich in the stimuli and emotions offered not only by the competitive events but also by the programme of fringe events and meetings”.

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