More than half of public buildings are inaccessible to people suffering from physical disabilities, with 50 per cent of buildings failing to provide parking places for the disabled. The same percentage does not provide access for the physically impaired and buildings with access are inadequately fitted to allow full mobility. Meanwhile 30 per cent of government institutions have obstacles inside their buildings that encumber movement and more than 70 per cent fail to provide toilets for the disabled.
These were the findings of a Youth Green Party study carried out in October and made public on Wednesday December 3rd, marking The International Day of Disabled Persons. The International Day of Disabled Persons aimed to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the maintenance of dignity, rights and well being of persons with disabilities. It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of disabled persons in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.
The Youth Green Party carried out an extensive study of 32 public buildings in the Nicosia district after attending two workshops run by the Technical Committee for Facilitating Disabled People and the Architects Association. Five members then based their findings on an evaluation questionnaire they filled in during their visits to each building, assessing how easy it was for a person with motor difficulties to move around. These included people in wheelchairs, pregnant women, people pushing pushchairs and people with health problems that affect their motor skills, which is estimated to make up 50 per cent of the population.
The buildings evaluated including old buildings, such as the Ministry of Agriculture, new buildings like the Foreign Ministry, owned building such as the Labour Ministry and rented ones such as the Health Ministry.
Unfortunately, the results were equally disappointing in all types of buildings. More specific, the new Finance Ministry had failed to provide adequate parking spaces for disabled visitors and employees. The House of Representatives did not have sufficient toilets for the disabled and the ones assigned for disabled use “resembled cupboards”. Meanwhile buildings that did bother to put in ramps failed to adhere to certain criteria, rendering them unusable.
The point is, for a disabled person or someone who has difficult in moving, to be able to get around unaided and not to have to rely on someone else. What is the point of building a ramp 80 centimeters steeper than it should be if it can’t be used appropriately?
However the main problem is Cypriots’ attitude towards the disabled. The study confirmed that there are no disabled people, but there are disabled societies. Often it is not the disability that prevents disabled people moving from A to B. Instead it is nondisabled people’s lack of sensitivity and conscientiousness that is the problem.
So often we see a nondisabled person parked in the only space we have for disabled people. This happens every day and offenders include deputies and police who fail to respect the laws they voted in and are supposed to uphold.
Disabled people’s isolation is therefore created by the states’ attitude towards disabilities, and not the disability itself. To change we need the right attitude and not to just ignore the accesses we provide. To drive this point home Mr.Perdikis the deputy of the Green Party challenged deputies to sit in wheelchairs and attempt to attend the Plenum. The point of the exercise was to see that things get done and that more notice is taken of the island’s disabled population.
Which is why this year’s International Day of Disabled Persons aims to see improvements made and not just to limit itself to statements about disabled people’s rights.