1 INDAQS NOVEMBER 2006 THE CHAIRPERSON’S MESSAGE Equal: Good for Me, Good for You! (Indaqs: Tajjeb Ghalik, Tajjeb Ghalija!) Everyone is busy. Everyone is in a hurry. Because of this, very often we end up closing ourselves in our own individual world, a world which recognises only that which is important for us or those close to us. Other people are thus divided into simplistic categories: those who help us and those who obstruct us. Those who look like us and those who think like us are distinguished from those who are different or against us. Many people do not want to acknowledge other people who are different in appearance, thought or culture and, if possible, they would also erase their existence. We would be mistaken to think that prejudice, cruelty and eradication of difference began and ended with the Nazi regime in the twentieth century. Many countries, including economically and culturally developed ones, sought to apply eugenics, that is, the belief that so-called “inferior” people (such as persons with disability) should be stopped from having relationships and children by being made to stay in specific institutions or by being sterilised through medical intervention. These theories flourish particularly in those places where they can build on a parochial mentality, that is, where narrow-minded people cannot see beyond their very limited surroundings. It is a well-known fact that progress, both in nature and in human beings, does not depend on uniformity but on diversity. Different countries around the world move forward by being influenced by each other’s languages, traditions, cuisine, art and economy. For these reasons, the slogan chosen by KNPD for the 2006 Persons with Disability Week highlights the importance of diversity: Indaqs - Tajjeb Ghalija, Tajjeb Ghalik! (Equal - Good for Me, Good for You!) Firstly, “equal” does not mean “identical”. Equality exists in a society which allows people to find the adjustments, support and tools which they need in order to benefit from equal opportunities and a good quality of life. An equal society, or better, an inclusive society, respects differences for moral reasons but also because difference is financially and culturally beneficial. When society adapts itself to the needs of those who require support, everyone benefits. No one can deny the fact that physical and mental difficulties, and any kind of severe disability, make life much harder. However, while disability and difficulty are linked, disability can also have positive effects both on those carrying the disability and also those who do not have a disability. We, persons with disability, agree that our disabilities do not make us identical. We are all different and our experiences are different too. However, if you have a disability you have something in common with others: you have to adapt to the reality of your life. We have all passed through a process of adaptation. 2 If you suffer from a mobility impairment, you have to find alternative ways of being mobile; if you suffer from a hearing impairment, you have to find alternative ways of communicating; those who are blind have to find ways of living in a so-called “normal” environment; the same has to be done by people with intellectual impairment or people with mental health problems. People without disability do not have to adjust to the environment but, for persons with disability, adjustment is a twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week endeavour. Adaptation is a form of lateral thinking. In fact, persons with disability are inclined to look at problems from various perspectives and to solve problems in different ways. Being able to do this is a very valuable talent. Society as a whole benefits from adjustments made for persons with disability. The following are a few examples: - Visual impairment – Signs in large font, audio and electronic material, internet banking, talking lifts; - Intellectual impairment – Easy-to-read material, colour coding, staff trained in how to speak slowly and in a simple way; - Mobility impairment – Automatic doors, ramps, lifts, low-floor buses with ramps; - Hearing impairment – Subtitles in films and sports programmes, the use of sign language, e-mail and internet chatting. These are all adaptations which were created as ways of helping persons with disability but were eventually found to be beneficial also for persons without disability. A clear example of this is ramps at the edges of street pavements. These are not only useful for persons using wheelchairs but also for the elderly, parents with pushchairs, and people using walkers, rollerblades, bicycles and more. The Equal Opportunities (Persons with Disability) Act that was approved unanimously by the Maltese Parliament in the year 2000 is a clear example of how that which is good for persons with disability is good for everyone. Thanks to this law, we are gradually seeing more accessible ATMS, telephones and other essential apparatus. We are witnessing more individualised and easier-to-access services and the introduction of alternative means of communication. There is also a greater effort to present information in a simple and clear way and to make public transport more accessible. We can see public and private buildings which are comfortable for me and for you – irrespective of whether we have a disability or not! Charles Darwin believed in the theory of the ‘survival of the fittest’. Many people interpret this theory as meaning that the strongest succeed. They are wrong. The phrase, ‘survival of the fittest’, really means, the ‘success of those who can adapt better to their situation’. History teaches us that persons with disability have the ability to adapt in order to compensate for their physical or mental impairments. The more one adapts to difficult circumstances, the easier it becomes to adapt to everyday life. The more we understand this concept the more we should tolerate the physical and mental disabilities around us and the more we understand how the abilities and technology developed for adaptation 3 purposes can help everyone have a better life. Finally, my friends, we understand better when I and other persons with disability, tell you: EQUAL – Good for Me, Good for You! (INDAQS – Tajjeb Ghalija, Tajjeb Ghalik!) SOME OF THE PRODUCTS DEVELOPED FOR US, PERSONS WITH DISABILITY 1808: The Typewriter (and any kind of keyboard) Pellegrino Turri created the first typewriter for Countess Carolina Fantoni da Fivizzono, a blind person who wanted to continue writing. 1873: The Computer Herman Hollerith, a young man with an intellectual impairment, used to run away from school because he was not good at spelling. Hollerith eventually created a data-storing system using punch-cards – this was the first type of computer. Later, he established a company which eventually became the International Business Machines, better known as IBM. 1876: The Telephone Alexander Graham Bell initially conceived the telephone as an apparatus to help his wife, who had a hearing impairment. 1929: The Stereo Harvey Fletcher published the book, Speech and Hearing, which had a strong influence on the development of the stereo system, which today is used for music. 1948: Transistor Radio The transistor was invented as a direct result of research into the creation of smaller hearing aids which do not heat up quickly and which last longer. Sony bought the licence for the production of the transistor and used this technology to produce very small radios (transistor radios) that were bought by millions of people with or without disability. 1948: The Jacuzzi Bath Candido Jacuzzi developed a water pump to be used to massage the joints of his fifteen- month son who had developed arthritis. In 1955, the pump started to be used commercially in luxurious baths. 1984: Musical Keyboards Ray Kurzweil developed the first musical keyboard producing an acoustic sound after talking with Stevie Wonder, the blind musician and composer. 4 AWARENESS-RAISING ACTIVITIES Equal Opportunities Act The Commission published a booklet in Maltese which explains clearly the Equal Opportunities Act. This booklet illustrates in brief the essential principles of this Act in order to help persons with disability, their families and their organisations, understand how this Act works and how they can use it effectively to stop discrimination. This booklet also includes a model letter which can be used by persons with disability who want to make a formal complaint according to this Act. An audio version of this booklet has also been produced and this, together with the printed version, is available from the Commission’s offices. The printed version can also be obtained from the Commission’s website: www.knpd.org. This publication was presented to the public in a press conference and during a meeting for non-governmental organisations working in this sector. Moreover, there was also an advertising campaign that included advertising in all the newspapers as well as all the radio and television stations. This activity was financed by the European Union Community Action Programme to Combat Discrimination. Awareness Campaign in Schools The Commission continued its awareness campaign in Maltese and Gozitan schools by sending a number of persons with different disabilities to talk to students about disability issues, especially the social model of disability. In some schools, this training was integrated with other activities while other schools organised a Disability Awareness Day. In total, 9 persons with disability took part in these activities. They visited 27 schools and talked to about 4,600 students in 125 hours. These were 14 primary schools, 12 secondary schools and a college which includes both secondary and post-secondary students. The Commission carried out this campaign with the financial support of the European Union. Public Activities in Summer The Commission organised two open-air activities for the general public: one in Marsalforn, Gozo, and one in Sliema. The activities included singing, dancing (including dancing by persons with disability and persons using wheelchairs) and information about disability issues. During these activities, the Commission also distributed some of its publications to persons with disability. These public activities were organised with the financial assistance of the European Union. 5 Right From the Start The Commission has published an information booklet in Maltese, English and in audio format in order to provide practical guidelines to professionals, especially those in the health sectors, on how to break the news about the presence of disability to persons with disability and their families. This booklet is aimed at creating a greater awareness about the strong and long-lasting effects that this news has on those who receive it and at providing health professionals with information about support services available for these people. This publication was presented to the public, and especially these professionals, during a public seminar addressed by the Chairman of the Commission, Mr. Joseph M. Camilleri, and by Dr. Louis Deguara, Minister for Health. A copy of this publication in various formats can be obtained from the offices of the Commission while versions in Maltese and English are available on the Commission’s website: www.knpd.org. This publication was produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. Training camp for Youths with Hearing Impairment Between the 4th and the 9th of September 2006, the Commission, together with the Deaf People Association, organised a training camp for youths with hearing impairment. This seminar was financed by the European Union Youth Programme. The participants of the seminar came from Finland, Germany, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Malta and the European Union of the Deaf Youth. The aim of this seminar was to help the participants develop a positive self-image and a positive outlook on issues relating to hearing impairment. The training camp included both formal and informal activities in which the participants discussed various issues related to the life of persons with hearing impairment. Every organisation explained the services available to people with hearing impairment in its country. One of the main activities during the camp was a meeting with Hon. Lawrence Gonzi, Prime Minister of Malta. During this meeting, the need for more interpreters in Malta was highlighted. The camp also addressed the need to develop the personal skills of the participants in view of making their contribution to their organisations more effective. The Sign Book KNPD, in collaboration with the Speech and Language Department of the Health and the Inclusive and Special Education Network of the Education Division, published the Sign Book, both in print and CD format. These two publications are aimed at providing a sign system as a means of communication for persons with intellectual impairment. The book includes 400 commonly-used signs and a key in Maltese and English. The CD includes the same signals as well as a short video-clip on each sign. This publication was presented to the public during a seminar addressed by Dr. Nicola Grove from the City University of London. This seminar was attended by persons with disability, speech therapists, facilitators, support workers and other people interested in this sector. A copy of Dr. Grove’s presentation and the booklet are available on the Commission’s website: 6 www.knpd.org. People who need this book and/or CD can obtain a copy from the Commission’s offices. These publications were produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. RESEARCH ACTIVITIES European Disability Advocacy Mainstreaming Assessment Tool (EDAMAT) The aim of the project, EDAMAT, was to create a series of guidelines to safeguard the rights of persons with disability. These guidelines are meant to inform decision makers and those in charge of formulating policies, laws and programmes, about what should be done to cater for the rights and needs of persons with disability. These guidelines also help persons with disability and their organisations monitor the inclusion of their rights and needs in policies, laws and programmes. EDAMAT is based on four main principles: Participation, Accessibility, Resources and Enforcement. It acknowledges the fact that the mainstreaming process is a challenge for those who formulate policies and laws. Moreover, EDAMAT, while acknowledging the importance of mainstreaming, still sees the need for specific measures to be taken for persons with disability. The Commission participated in this project, which was coordinated by Leonard Cheshire International, together with organisations from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Greece, Spain and Portugal. EDAMAT has been published in five languages, including Maltese. A copy can be obtained from the Commission’s offices or downloaded in standard, text- only or easy-to-read format from the project’s website: www.edamat-europe.org. This document was presented to the Maltese public in an activity during the Persons with Disability Week. There was also a public presentation of the document in Brussels, which was attended by a Maltese delegation. This project is financed by European Union funds. Access to Professional Training The National Commission Persons with Disability, together with the Department of Social Policy and Social Work at the University of Malta, continued to work on this project which is aimed at helping persons with disability continue their education, also at a tertiary level, especially in the social sector. The work done in this project includes: - the identification of persons with disability wishing to participate in this project; - individual interviews with every person with disability applying for this course; - the identification of individual support required by these persons with disability to participate in this course; 7 - a meeting with high officials from MCAST to discuss the aims of this course as well as courses offered by the College which can assist students enrolling in this course; - the initial training required for the mentoring of third year students that are making the grade in Social Work. Eventually, some of these students will take on the roles of mentors for students with disability. KNPD and the University of Malta have appointed a Steering Committee to run this Project. The following aspects will be discussed regularly: - all the necessary preparations for this course to meet the targets of the Project; - the possibility of extending similar courses to other faculties at the University. Since this course is built on the Social Model of Disability, persons with disability: - participate actively in the Committee; - give lectures for the training of mentors at University; - give feedback to KNPD about the accessibility of the Project’s website; and - will also be involved in the training to be given to students in the course to be held at University between February and April 2007. A meeting for the delegates of all the organisations which are taking part in this project was held in Sliven, Bulgaria. During this meeting, every participating country presented a report of the work that had been done on this project. Moreover, the dates in which each country is organising this course were fixed. Malta was represented by Dr. Charles Pace, on behalf of the University of Malta, and Ms. Rosanne Fenech, representing the Commission. In Malta, this course is going to be held at the university between February and April 2007. National Policy on Self Advocacy for Persons with Intellectual Impairment. As announced in the last issue of Indaqs, the Commission started an intensive consultation process in view of formulating this policy. This process started in November 2005 and consisted of 4 meetings open to persons with disability from various sectors, including Day Centres, residential services, educational institutions, non-governmental institutions and Gozo. Persons with intellectual impairment, their families and people working in this sector were invited to attend. The attendance for these meetings was very encouraging and this shows the great interest in this subject. This also means that there could be a wide consultation and a greater awareness about the issue. The strong and active participation of persons with intellectual impairment was encouraging. Every meeting started with a short presentation explaining what self-advocacy is, followed by three workshops: one for persons with intellectual impairment, one for members of their families, and one for the staff. In some of these meetings, there were 2 workshops for persons with intellectual impairment since their attendance was high. Following the workshops, there were plenary meetings in which the work that had been done was discussed. This led to the formulation of the final report. This report is divided into two parts. The first part includes the National Policy on self-advocacy for persons with intellectual impairment in Malta. The second part is a report on the whole consultation 8 process. This report, together with an easy-to-read summary and an audio version, were presented to the public during a national seminar held in October 2006. These publications can be obtained from the offices of the Commission while the printed version as well as an easy-to-read version can be downloaded from the Commission’s website: www.knpd.org. THE PERSONS WITH DISABILITY WEEK The 3rd of December is the Persons with Disability Day. Every year the Commission chooses a theme around which to organise a week of activities. This year’s theme is: Indaqs: Tajjeb Ghalija, Tajjeb Ghalik (Equal: Good for Me, Good for You). The programme for this Week is the following: Monday 27th November Beginning of speeches in Secondary Schools given by persons with disability. Maria Assumpta Secondary School, Hamrun Seminar: “Good for Me, Good for You” Youth Centru Hidma Socjali (Together with the Youth Section of the Ministry for Education and the National Youth Council) Wednesday 29th November Seminar: ‘“Good for Me, Good for You” Mainstreaming: The Persons with Disability Sector’ and a presentation of the final EDAMAT document Centru Hidma Socjali Thursday 30th November FITA’s Annual General Meeting with the theme: ‘“Good for Me, Good for You” in Information Technology Too’ Centru Hidma Socjali Thanksgiving Reception Centru Hidma Socjali Friday 1st December Presentation of the Equal Opportunities Act Annual Report Centru Hidma Socjali Sunday 3rd December International Day of Persons with Disability At 7 pm: Ministerial message by the Hon. Dolores Cristina and Ms Mariella Beck Venanzi 9 The Commission also: a) publishes a theme poster which is distributed around Malta and Gozo; b) produces a short video about the theme to be shown on all local television stations; c) publishes two statements: one for adults, which is included in this edition as the Chairman’s Word, and another one for children, which is included in this edition of Indaqs and which was distributed among all the schools in Malta and Gozo. THE COMMITTEE FOR UNIVERSITY STUDENTS WITH DISABILITY The Commission had a meeting with the new University Rector, Prof. Juanito Camilleri, and the Pro-Rector, Dr Mary Anne Lauri, mainly to discuss the Special Needs Committee of the University. Following this meeting, this Committee, in which the Commission is represented by its chairman, Mr Joe Camilleri, was reformed as follows: a) The chairman of this Committee is now the Pro-Rector, Dr Mary Anne Lauri; b) Its name will change to “Access Disability Support Committee”; c) Three sub-committees were established to help the Committee function better. These will be in charge of: Information Technology during Examinations; Matsec and Special Arrangements during Examinations; and Physical Access at University. The Commission hopes that through this Committee and its sub-committees that have already started their work, there will soon be positive results. A GROUP OF EUROPEAN UNION HIGH OFFICIALS The Directorate General for Work, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities within the European Commission, has a group of High Officials for the sector of persons with disability from each member state of the European Union. The aim of this Group is to help in the drafting of the Union’s strategy for this sector and to assist in informing the member states about the work of the Union and the member states in this sector. Another meeting of this Group was held in September 2006. This was attended by Malta’s representative, the Director of the Commission. During this meeting, the following themes were discussed: The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability. The Group was given information about the negotiations held in New York last August when an agreement was reached about the drafting of the new convention. An issue which was discussed in detail was the definition of disability. 10 Legislation about Transport Services and Persons with Disability The group was given information about recent developments in this sector in the European Union. These include: • New regulations about persons with disability suffering from mobility impairment when travelling by air (EC Regulation No 1107/2006 of the European Parliament); • Proposals on new regulations about travelling by train and persons with disability; • Consultations being held by the EU about regulations for sea transport and persons with disability; • Discussions about the Services Working Paper and the rights of passengers with disability who use buses and coaches for international trips. Conference on the European Social Fund The Directorate organised a Conference on the new European Social Fund Regulations that safeguard the issues of persons with disability especially with regards to accessibility and non-discrimination. There was also a presentation of the draft toolkit that the European Union Disability Unit is planning to publish to ensure that these regulations have the desired effects. Social Services and Persons with Disability In April 2006, the European Union adopted a Communication about Social Services to give more importance to the diversity in different countries. The group discussed the ways in which this might affect persons with disability. The Blue Sticker The European Union Disability Unit is going to conduct a study about this service at a European Level. Malta, through the Commission, is going to have an active part in this study. The European Year of Equal Opportunities - 2007 The group was informed about this year’s organisation. Fifteen million euros were budgeted for this year. Half of these are to be used for activities at a European level and the other half will be used for activities at a national level. Malta is going to receive €120,000, but the Maltese Government has to provide the same amount of funds. The Progress Programme The European Union Disability Unit has been assigned 4 million euros for 2007 through this programme. The Unit is planning to use these funds as follows: • € 2 million will be used to support NGOs working in this sector at a European level; • € 1.5 million will go for projects, which include the Conference for the European Day of Persons with Disability and a network of experts; • € 0.5 million will be used for administration, which includes the ESF toolkit and the Group’s meetings. 11 The European Day of Persons with Disability The European Conference for this Day is going to be held between the 4th and 5th December 2007, since the 3rd of December, the European Day of Persons with Disability, will fall on a Sunday. The theme of this conference is “Youth = Future: Let’s make an Equal Future for All”. EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES ACT One of the principal functions of the Commission is to receive, investigate, mediate and, if necessary, take legal proceedings to ensure that the Equal Opportunities (Persons with Disability) Act is respected and thus stop discrimination against persons with disability. The following are the major developments which occurred over the last six months. Closed Complaints Reserved Parking in Mdina The Commission notes with satisfaction that, thanks to the efforts of all those involved, a solution to the problem of lack of access to Mdina for persons with disability has been found. The Ministry for Internal Affairs issued new traffic regulations that allow persons in possession of the Blue Sticker to enter Mdina. The Malta Transport Authority approved two reserved parking spaces in Mdina and the Local Council took care of the relevant traffic signs. Large Font Statements The Commission continued to work on the complaint that, to assist persons with visual impairment, the statements and bills of important entities should be made available in large font upon request. The Commission was successful in its negotiations with the office of the Prime Minister and Melita Cable. The Office of the Prime Minister issued a circular to all its directors (including parastatal ones) to ensure that the information given to their employees are accessible to everyone. Melita Cable also accepted this and informed all the persons with disability registered with the Commission about this service. The Magazine, “Flimkien” (Together) The Commission received a complaint that this magazine, which is distributed in many parishes, is not accessible to people with visual impairment. This complaint has now been solved because those who need it can ask the chaplain to be given an audio version of this magazine. Complaints Under Discussion The Giving of Medicines in Schools Once again, the Commission must report that there has been no progress as regards to this complaint. The complaint is that a number of students with disability, who need 12 medicine, are not being given this medicine at school or their parents have to go to school every day to give this medicine to their children. The Commission is aware of the complexity of this issue and has thus agreed to participate in a task force to give recommendations. The report of this task force was given some time ago to the Minister of Education. The Minister asked for the advice of the Attorney General’s Office. Unfortunately, this advice has not been given yet. The Commission is going to continue working by taking all the legal measures to solve this problem as soon as possible. An Employee with Hearing Impairment The Commission received a complaint by an employee with hearing impairment at MIA that he was not being given the services of a sign language interpreter during staff meetings and training programmes and that he was being discriminated against in the assignment of overtime. While the company accepted to provide the service of an interpreter during staff meetings, discussions are ongoing about the service of an interpreter during other meetings and training programmes. As regards the complaint about the overtime, the Commission is investigating. District Offices of the Social Security Department The Commission received complaints that a number of district offices of the social security department were not accessible to everyone. The Department agreed with the Commission that it would carry out an exercise to verify what is reasonably required to improve the accessibility of its offices. This exercise has now started and it is hoped that discussions will start shortly to decide what can reasonably be done. The St Vincent de Paule Canteen The Commission received a complaint that this canteen does not have an entrance which is accessible to everyone. This canteen is administered by a private company in the name of the Department of the Elderly while the owner of the land is the Lands Department. The Commission insists that it is the responsibility of the Department of the Elderly to ensure that the canteen is accessible to its clients, particularly in view of the fact that most of the people living at St Vincent de Paule have problems of mobility. Unfortunately, little progress has been made with respect to this complaint but the Commission is working on this issue. The Mdina Belvedere When rehabilitation work was being carried out in Mdina, the Commission insisted that the bastion belvedere should be made accessible to everyone. Discussions were held to decide whether a lift or a ramp would be the solution. The Commission always preferred a ramp. This proposal has now been accepted and an application for the necessary permits has been submitted to MEPA. The Commission will continue working to make sure that the belvedere can be enjoyed by everyone. 13 News in Maltese Sign Language The Commission received a complaint from the Deaf People Association that PBS had stopped the service of news in Maltese Sign Language broadcast on Saturdays and Sundays. Moreover, the broadcast time of the news changes every three months and the news are sometimes broadcast during working hours when it is difficult for people with hearing impairment to follow them. The Commission is convinced that this is a case of discrimination against persons with hearing impairment and will do its utmost to find a solution in the near future. Accessible Website Following several complaints, the Commission, together with the Foundation for Information Technology Accessibility (FITA), commenced an exercise meant to ensure that websites of important entities are made accessible to everyone by fulfilling international standards. This year, the Commission and FITA held discussions towards making the websites of the following entities accessible: • The Church in Malta • The Church in Gozo • Melita Cable • Water Services Corporation • Bank of Valletta • Maltacom The Government, through the Office of the Prime Minister, issued a circular to all its directors (including parastatal ones) to ensure that their websites are accessible to everyone. Unfortunately, the guidelines given in this circular are inadequate and thus the Commission is holding discussions about the matter. Statements in Large Font The Commission, as reported above, received a number of complaints about the fact that a number of major entities do not issue statements, including bills, which are accessible to people with visual impairment. The solution would be issuing statements in large font when requested by the client. The entities agreed to do this but there were disagreements about what kind of publicity should be given to this service. Discussions about this matter are ongoing with the following entities: • Water Services Corporation; • HSBC; • Bank of Valletta; • Maltacom; • Vodafone. Complaints filed in Court Calypso Hotel, Marsalforn The Commission received a complaint that, following the modernisation of this hotel in Marsalforn, Gozo, this hotel was not accessible to everyone. Investigations by the Commission showed that the complaint was justified. The management had sent their 14 modernisation plans to the Commission. Initially, these did not follow the Commission’s Guidelines but they were eventually modified twice and, therefore, the MEPA permit could be issued. The architect of the Commission, in agreement with the management, carried out an access audit of the necessary changes. The Commission requested proposals by the management for these changes to be carried out within a reasonable time. However, the management did not comply even after the Commission had presented a judicial protest in the Court in Gozo. Consequently, the Commission had no choice but to institute proceedings against the management of this hotel. The first sitting of this case has been held and the Commission hopes that this case will be decided within a reasonable time. Despite this, the Commission is open to finding an amicable solution. Accessibility at the Michele Peresso Establishment The Commission instituted proceedings in court against this establishment, which sells products for the specific use of persons with disability, because the premises do not conform to the Commission’s Guidelines. The case was decided in favour of the Commission and the Court found the company guilty of discrimination against persons with disability under the Equal Opportunities (Persons with Disability) Act. This company was ordered to apply for the necessary permits with MEPA within two weeks and to carry out the necessary work within two months from the issue of the permit. Unfortunately, the company appealed from this decision. This year, the company proposed to install an external platform lift instead of carrying out works on the ramp. The Commission did not accept this proposal because its Guidelines state that platform lifts are only acceptable when ramps or normal lifts are not a viable option, which is not the case here. For the above reasons, the appeal is still pending in court. The Health Division The Commission is still involved in the court case it opened against the Ministry of Health about the lack of access at the Health Centre in Gzira, which operates on the second floor and is not served with a lift. CONFERENCE – DISABILITY STUDIES: RESEARCH AND LEARNING Between the 18th and the 20th September 2006, the Commission’s Chairman, Mr Joe Camilleri, attended a conference organised by the Disability Studies Association of the United Kingdom. The conference was organised by the University of Lancaster and its theme was, “Disability Studies: Research and Learning”. Mr Joe Camilleri was chosen as one of the two main speakers to open this conference. Mr Camilleri’s presentation was entitled: “The Genesis of Disability Studies in Malta: From a Colonial Past to an Independent Future?” This presentation can be obtained form the website of the Commission: www.knpd.org. The other main speaker was Ms Alison 15 Sheldon, who spoke about, “Disabling the Disabled People Movement? The Influence of the Disability Studies on the Struggle for Liberation”. This conference was attended by lecturers and researchers in the field of disability from all around the world including: Lawrence Arnold, Colin Barnes. Len Barton, Peter Beresford, Lilith Finkler, Sally French, Dan Goodley, Jennifer Harris, Mark Priestley, Richard Rieser, Tom Shakespeare, Rannveig Trauseadottir. The speeches and discussions of this conference will be published on the website of the University of Lancaster: www.disabilitystudies.net SERVICES AND BENEFITS FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITY One of the main publications of the Commission is “Services and Benefits for Persons with Disability”. This booklet includes information about all the services and benefits that the Maltese society offers to persons with disability and their families. The Commission updates this booklet regularly in order for it to reflect the recent changes in telephone numbers, fax numbers and e-mail addresses, as well as any new services. This year, the Commission published the fifth edition of this booklet, which is also available in audio format for people who cannot read, as well as in English. These three versions can be obtained for free from the offices of the Commission while versions in Maltese and English can be downloaded from the Commission’s website. The Commission is working on the publication of this book in an easy-to-read format for persons with intellectual disability and in Maltese sign language for persons with hearing impairment. The Park of Friendship (Razzett tal-Hbiberija) has informed us that the information about it contained in this booklet is inaccurate. The Special Identity Card issued by the Commission no longer entitles its holder to a free use of the Park’s facilities. Discounts and free membership are being provided to persons with disability who fulfil the criteria of the Park itself. The Commission is obviously disappointed with this development because not all persons with disability can now benefit from these facilities and also because the persons with disability have to be subjected to further scrutiny if they want to use the facilities. THE BLUE STICKER SERVICE As already announced, the Commission is working to make this service sustainable. For this reason, two decisions have been taken: a) All the applications for the Blue Sticker have to be vetted by the Commission’s doctor; b) The Blue Sticker (and the Special Identity Card) are to be collected when the Sticker holder dies. For these procedures to be followed, the Commission has had to incur new expenses and thus it has introduced a reasonable fee of Lm5 for this service. This fee is paid once even if the blue sticker is issued on a temporary basis or if there is the need of more than one 16 visit by the Commission’s doctor. These visits are held at the offices of the Commission in Santa Venera. This process started in June 2006 and the statistics in Table 1, updated till the end of October 2006, show that this exercise is having the desired results. As regards the collection of the Blue Sticker of deceased persons with disability, and who therefore do need this document, the Commission has adopted the following procedure: • The Commission acquires the relevant information from the Public Registry; • The Commission sends a letter to the family requesting the Blue Sticker and the Special Identity Card; • Those who have lost any of the documents are requested to send an affidavit sworn in front of their notary; • If the documents or the affidavit are not sent to the Commission, a second letter is sent; • If these documents are still not sent, the Commission informs the Commissioner of Police in order for him to send a police officer to collect the document from the family’s residence. (In the case of the Special Identity Card, a legal letter is sent by the Commission’s advocate). As shown in the statistics in Table 2, this procedure is having the desired effect because the great majority of these documents are now being returned. These statistics are for the January 2006 to July 2006 period. Table 1 Number % Permanent Blue Stickers Issued 110 44 Temporary Blue Stickers Issued 54 22 Blue Sticker Not Given 54 22 Application Dropped 33 13 Total 251 100 Table 2 Returned Affidavit No Reply Total No % No % No % No Special Identity Card 142 64 38 17 43 19 223 Blue Sticker 102 65 29 19 25 16 156 THE 2007 BUDGET AND PERSONS WITH DISABILITY Every year the Commission presents the Government with a memorandum of proposals for the budget of the following year. For 2007, the Commission made the following proposals, some of which were accepted and some not. The Commission’s proposals were the following: 17 a) The SAPPORT Agency should have a substantial increase in its budget so that the list of clients on the waiting list for its services can be terminated. This proposal was not accepted because the budget for this agency remained the same as the year before. The increase that was given was due to the fact that the budget for Day Centres was transferred from the Ministry of the Family to this Agency. b) The Government should allocate the necessary funds for the implementation of the proposed project by SAPPORT Agency and Mount Carmel Hospital to transfer a number of persons with disability from the hospital to the agency. This proposal was not accepted. c) The Day Service for Persons with Disability should be given the necessary funds to employ the professionals that it needs. This proposal was not accepted. d) The transfer of the Day Service for Persons with Disability to SAPPORT Agency should be completed as soon as possible and not later than mid-2007. The first step towards this happening was made in the budget by giving the funds for this service to the Agency. e) The income ceiling upon which the tax bands are calculated and the income ceiling determining who is exempt from the water and electricity surcharge should be higher for persons with disability and their families. This proposal was not accepted. f) The Commission should be given the necessary funds for it to be able to assist all those who need the Special Aids Services and thus eliminate the waiting list; the financial assistance should rise to at least 75% of the price of the equipment bought; and there should be no maximum amount for grants. This proposal was not accepted. g) The Social Security Act should be amended so that persons who have mental health problems that do not allow them to work can be entitled to the pension for persons with disability. This proposal was not accepted. h) The budget of the Commission’s Secretariat should rise to reflect the increase in wages and the cost of living of the last four years. This proposal was accepted and the Commission’s budget was increased by LM10,000. There were two measures related to persons with disability which were introduced in the budget but which had not been recommended by the Commission. These were: a) Persons with disability will receive the pension for persons with disability in the first five years after getting married; b) The Government allocated Lm75,000 to run Dar Pirotta in Birkirkara so that a number of persons with disability can live in the community; Moreover, one of the provisions being discussed as an amendment to the Social Security Act is meant to entitle parents of persons with severe disability to four years (instead of two) of parental leave from work and to keep being credited social security contributions while availing themselves of the parental leave. Obviously, the Commission agrees with these two measures which will improve the quality of life of those who benefit from them, 18 KNPD’s 20th Anniversary The National Commission Persons with Disability was established in November 1987 through a parliamentary statement by the Hon. Louis Galea, the then Minister for Social Policy. Thus, 2007 is going to be the 20th anniversary of the Commission’s establishment. The Commission is preparing an intensive programme to commemorate this important occasion and thus widen the awareness of the issues relating to persons with disability with the aim of improving the quality of life of persons with disability and their families. The Commission plans to organise one activity a month on a national level during 2007. The European Union has chosen the year 2007 as the European Year for Equal Opportunities and, therefore, these activities fit very well in this context. In order to be able to finance these activities, the Commission has applied for funds amounting to € 150,000. We are happy to announce that this request was accepted. KNPD’s views on the Malta Labour Party’s Policy on Health The National Commission Persons with Disability was invited by the Malta Labour Party to give its feedback to the draft document, Poplu b’Sahhtu, Pajjiz b’ Sahhtu (Healthy People, Healthy Country). The Commission discussed this document during one of its meetings and then presented its comments to the leaders of the Malta Labour Party in a meeting arranged for this purpose. These comments were also forwarded to the media. The main points of the Commission’s comments were the following: 1. KNPD agrees with several general concepts listed in the document, such as, that: • The patient should be at the centre of a service characterised by efficiency and dignity; • Every effort should be made to strengthen the service’s sustainability; • Benchmarks should be established in order to reduce health problems; • Efforts should be made to offer more care in the community and thus reduce the centralisation of medical services; • There should be monitoring and, if necessary, adjustments to ensure that the price of medical care remains realistic; • The patients’ rights should be strengthened; • A programme should be devised in order to help individuals find their place in the community after long-term treatment. 2. KNPD has always acknowledged that the biological aspect definitely imposes limitations on the life of persons with disability. However, KNPD believes that the greatest obstacles that persons with disability face in life and that impoverish their quality of life are social in nature. 19 Therefore, the Commission has always accepted the Social Model of Disability that does not consider disability to be caused primarily by medical issues but by social obstacles. KNPD notes that the way that issues of persons with disability are dealt with in this document suggests that the Malta Labour Party perceives these issues as being purely medical rather than social in nature. 3. Persons with disability are only mentioned directly on page 20, paragraph 4, where there is the recommendation that, “after the necessary infrastructural changes, a section of St Luke’s Hospital should be used to host persons with disability who cannot be taken care of by their families and who cannot live independently in the Community”. KNPD has always maintained that independent living is a social and not a medical issue. Therefore, KNPD cannot understand why this issue is being raised in a document about health. KNPD believes that there is no connection between these two topics except for the mentioning of a building which is currently being used for medical purposes. KNPD, which is formed primarily by persons with disability and parents of persons with disability, has always been very conscious of the severe problems faced by parents of persons with severe disability. Their main preoccupation is the question: “What will happen to our adult child when we can no longer give the necessary support?” KNPD also understands that the number of persons with severe disability is increasing for various reasons. On the other hand, KNPD has always insisted that the place of persons with disability is in the Community and has therefore always suggested that: a) The families of persons with disability should be given the necessary support by the Community so that they can keep taking care of the family member with disability for as long as possible, and b) Individualised support services should be provided to persons with disability for them to, if possible, live in the Community and in a familial environment. c) For those persons with disability whose needs cannot be satisfied at home, there should be the development of small community homes (of not more than 6 persons) so that the service can remain individualised and the persons can live as a family. This model is already being utilised both by the public sector through the SAPPORT Agency, as well as in the non-Governmental sector through the Nazareth Foundation, Fondazzjoni Wens and Dar tal-Providenza (Dar Zerniq). In this way, the element of choice, to which everyone is entitled, is being ensured. For the above reasons, KNPD has severe reservations about the recommendations about persons with disability made in this document. In the past, KNPD had already opposed the idea of using part of St Luke’s Hospital as a residence for persons with disability. 4. KNPD notes severe discrepancies between what this document recommends for persons with disability and what it recommends for the elderly and people with mental health problems. 20 For the elderly, the document, from page 33 onwards, recommends that: a) The elderly should keep on living at home as far as possible; b) Teaching and training should be given to their children or relatives who wish to continue taking care of them; c) Cluster homes should be built for the elderly who cannot take care of themselves; d) The services offered to the elderly living at home should be evaluated and assessed in order for them to reflect the modern needs of the elderly and their families; e) Programmes and initiatives should be created to avoid having elderly people feel that they are no longer useful in their community; f) The institute of health care should offer training in geriatrics; g) The Community Respite Centres where the elderly can live in a modern environment should increase. The document also deals with the strengthening of community services of people with mental health problems (page 30) because only in this way “can the number of patients requiring hospital treatment be reduced” (page 20, para. 5). While KNPD agrees wholeheartedly with what the document is recommending for persons with mental health problems and for the elderly, it asks why these points, with few modifications, were not applied to persons with disability. It is a known fact that a big number of persons with physical or intellectual impairments are elderly people. Thus, the services related to these impairments should not be regulated by age but by need. Persons with disability who are not old should benefit from the same quality of life that the document envisions for the elderly: a productive life with the necessary support of family and community. 5. KNPD notes that there is stigma related to the environment of what is, or was, the building of St Luke’s Hospital. This stigma creates the danger of segregation and the absolute dependency characterised by living in an institution. Persons with disability perceive the building of St Luke’s Hospital very negatively since the building is where many persons with disability passed some of the worst moments of their lives. No modifications are going to solve this problem. Despite all the good intentions and the fact that everything may be done after consultation with all the interested parties, projects such as these, which are not always profit making, often end up catering for many people with the result that the institution and its services are no longer personalised. Thus, the implementation of this recommendation would mean the warehousing and ghettoisation of persons with disability. 6. The document states as from page 1 that while the financial aspect is a reality, this should not be the only consideration. 21 The main concern should be the quality of life of the person (whom the document refers to as “the patient”). While the document emphasises that health services should not be determined by the financial aspect only, in the case of persons with disability, it gives the impression, through the proposal on page 20, that the financial aspect is indeed the main consideration. 7. Therefore, KNPD concludes by: • insisting that the issues of persons with disability should not be medical but social; • stating that persons with disability should have all the necessary support to keep living in the Community and, where this is impossible, small community homes should be developed to give the necessary support for independent living; • claiming that the state should continue to finance such services through SAPPORT Agency and non-governmental organisations; and • not agreeing that part of the building of St Luke’s Hospital should be developed as a residence for persons with disability. 8. In conclusion, KNPD notes with satisfaction the high level of national agreement on disability issues. This agreement brought an almost unanimous way of thinking about what is an appropriate quality of life for this vulnerable section of our society. Everyone agrees that the place of persons with disability is in the family and the community and, thus, KNPD insists that this recommendation should no longer be considered. MESSAGE FOR CHILDREN Indaqs: Tajjeb Ghalija, Tajjeb Ghalik! (Equal: Good for Me, Good for You!) On Saturday, 3rd December, children and adults with disability from all around the world commemorate the International Day of Persons with Disability. In order to celebrate this day appropriately, the National Commission Persons with Disability and other organisations coordinate a whole week of activities. During this week of activities, we try to show how persons with disability can do various things when having the necessary support. During this Week we publish a poster and a slogan. This year’s slogan is: Indaqs- Tajjeb Ghalija, Tajjeb Ghalik! (Equal: Good for You, Good for Me!) The message of this slogan is simple: When we do good things for persons with disability, we are improving things for everyone. Let us consider a few examples. Do you have anyone in your family who cannot see well? Many elderly people have eyesight problems. Have you noticed that they sometimes wear spectacles to read small print? To help these people, it would be good if the fonts were bigger. There are people who are almost completely blind and for them we could put information on cassettes or CDs. Have you ever heard a talking lift? These lifts are made on purpose for blind people. 22 Do you have any relatives or friends with an intellectual impairment? For these people to understand better we have started to publish books, booklets and leaflets in an easy-to- read format. In hospital, or any other big building, we could draw a coloured line to follow in order to arrive to our destination. For example, following a green line will get you to the canteen. Do you know anyone who has mobility problems? They might use a walking stick, crutches, or wheelchairs to get from one place to another. In order to help these people, in many places, such as the airport, there are automatic doors. Some buildings, such as St Luke’s Hospital, have ramps and lifts. Have you ever used a bus with a low floor or a ramp? Have you ever met a person with hearing impairment? Have you ever noticed that many foreign television programmes have subtitles? Today, films on video and DVD are often available with subtitles. These help people with hearing impairment to follow what is being said. All the things we have mentioned are good for everyone, not only for persons with disability. • Everyone enjoys reading a story in large font or to hear it through headphones. • Everyone enjoys reading a book or leaflet written in an easy-to-read style. • I think that when mum and dad push their baby’s pram or buggy, they too appreciate automatic doors. • Sub-titles are used frequently in bars and restaurants especially when a football game is being shown and because of all the shouting, the commentator cannot be heard. Such changes were initially made to help persons with disability but in a short time they were found to be comfortable also for people without a disability. Since persons with disability need things to be done differently, according to their needs, clever people (like Alexander Graham Bell who invented the telephone) developed ways of helping them that eventually started to be used also by those without a disability. In this way, persons with disability become more independent and society becomes more comfortable for everyone. Therefore, the slogan we have chosen for this year’s Persons with Disability Week is, “Indaqs: Tajjeb Ghalija, Tajjeb Ghalik! (Equal: Good for Me, Good for You!) 23 MEMBERS OF THE COMMISSION The members of the Commission are appointed for a period of two years by the Prime Minister on the recommendation of the Minister of the Family and Social Solidarity. In October 2006, a new Commission was appointed and the new members are: Chairman: Mr Joseph M. Camilleri Vice-Chairman: Ms Rita Vella The Ministry of the Family and Social Solidarity: Mr Jesmond Schembri The Ministry of Education, Youth and Employment: Mr George Borg The Ministry of Health and Community Services: Dr Taygeta Firman The Ministry of Finance: Mr Alfred Camilleri The Ministry for Gozo: Mr Noel Formosa The Local Council Association: Ms Sarah Cuschieri The University of Malta: Dr Marie Alexander The Maltese Archdiocese: Fr Martin Micallef The Voluntary Sector: Ms Maria Concetta Bonnici Mr Ronald Galea Ms Marchita Mangiafico Dr Daniela Mangion Ms. Ingrid Valenzia Mr Epifanio Vella Executive Secretary/Director: Mr Fred Bezzina The Commission takes this opportunity to thank Ms Myriam Aquilina, Dr Anthony Charles, Mr Carl Borg, Mr John Peel, Ms Marthese Mugliette, Ms Pamela Muscat and Dr Marvic Sammut who gave their services voluntarily as members of KNPD for the previous two years.