“What would I like?
I’d like to be able to get out of my house easily. To be able to get my wheelchair on the bus and go to school, work or for fun. How nice it would be to be able to cross a highway, go up and down crosswalks and walk on the sidewalk. I would love, with the help of my guide dog and my white cane, to go somewhere for lunch. To be able to understand a conversation or a movie because it has deaf interpretation. I would love to be accepted by the neighborhood, me living in a NPS hostel and trying to study or work. I, who have a physical, mental or spiritual deficit, find it difficult to survive in Greece. But I want to live, and I want to live here. In this place.” Lila Patroklou
For centuries, society has tended to see disability as an issue detached from other social issues. Stigma and prejudice against people with disabilities was the strongest barrier to their inclusion and even to the possibility of equal opportunities and access to education, employment, health and leisure.
The 20th century was a particularly important one for the disability field internationally. The negative attitudes and prejudices that society had towards people with disabilities began to be eradicated. The disabled person has now moved on to a different way of thinking and dealing with their everyday problems. In this change, the creation of various special educational support programmes for these people played an essential role, as well as legislation, which ensured their autonomy, professional integration and, in general, their participation in the social, economic and political life of the country.
It shows that Greece, slowly following international trends, is interested in equal access for people with disabilities in all areas of social life, but still has many gaps to fill. Although the elimination of marginalisation and exclusion is a key human rights issue, declarations are not enough. In Greece, the main cause of the social exclusion of people with disabilities is the existence of stereotypes and negative prejudices in the social environment, most of which stem from the lack of information among citizens about disability issues and the specific needs of people with disabilities.
The concept of disability is a social construct that changes over time and with it the way people with disabilities are treated by their environment. In modern times, the exclusion and ‘special’ treatment experienced by people with disabilities is considered one of the most serious social issues. The existence of social exclusion violates the human rights of people with disabilities and deprives them of a significant part of their value, as they do not actively participate in the whole. Direct or indirect discrimination has been classified by European legislation as a criminal offence and scientific communities are investigating the issue with the aim of preventing but also eliminating stigma and prejudice. Although many steps forward have been taken in recent decades, with the recognition of the disability movement, the institutionalisation of their rights and the implementation of programmes, the social inclusion of people with disabilities has not progressed satisfactorily.
In order to radically change the current situation regarding the way people with disabilities are treated and the perception around them, so as to achieve the effective integration/reintegration of people with disabilities, it is necessary to follow the European Strategy, in order to become an active policy tool, aiming at the full implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Only in this way will these people become active members of our society. It is the State that must put its social face forward, trying to safeguard the essence of our self-evident and acquired individual and social rights.
Only in this way will it make clear that it is interested in all its members, free of the particularities that characterise them, with the aim of integrating them and making them active. A society that is responsible and not without responsibilities.
Extract from a thesis on ‘A sociological approach to the social exclusion of people with disabilities’.
Edited by Christidou Sandy Social worker