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China-Europe Human Rights Seminar Piotr Gadzinowski speech
July 25,2017   By:chinahumanrights.org
China-Europe Human Rights Seminar Piotr Gadzinowski speech
 
It's rare nowadays to meet a politician or a journalist who would deny that "the right to work is one of the basic human rights". Especially in Europe, the birthplace of the human rights concept.
 
It is similarily hard to find a person who would deny the right to work to people with disabilities.
 
Still, it hasn't always been like this. In ancient Sparta, widely acknowledged in Europe for its army formation people with disabilities were killed or abandoned. Noble, in theory,  eugenic ideas were deformed in practice. Not such a long time ago there were governments in Europe which eliminated people, who did not comply with their norms of being fully able.
 
In my motherland, Poland, still in the second half   the 20th century the "fully abled” part of society was ashamed of people with disabilities. In the villages, they were isolated. Locked in separate rooms, often meant to be used by animals. When I was a child the only working people with disabilities I used to meet were in places of religious meaning, pilgrimage places. They were waiting for charity.
 
One can say they helped pilgrims to reach their full, moral, ability. Gave them a feeling of being noble, a supporter of their fellow brothers of a worse kind. It was still progress, because in the attempt to create a model, fully abled society we didn't eliminate those with disabilities.
 
This "sponsoring" system, however, was not satisfactory for all people with disabilities.
 
It is work, after all, that provides the feeling of dignity, and disability doesn't deprive the disabled of the need for it.
 
A successful model of ensuring dignity for people with disabilities were ?disabled cooperatives” created in socialist Poland. They enabled people with physical disabilities to be active in the job market. They could live without charity. These forms of employment were promoted by the state media. Working in the countryside, where according to the propaganda the "first classes" were labourers and peasants, they were promoted to the group of socially respected citizens. The optimistic media coverage was destroyed by the reality. Sometimes it was more interesting for people that those with disabilities just work than how they worked or what they created, what social needs were met by the fruit of their work.
 
After 1990 when the Polish economy was dominated by neoliberal ideology and the rules of the ?free market” took control, many of these cooperatives went bankrupt. The best ones stayed. Especially in food production, because their local product proved to be better than the global offers of the "fully abled" food production companies.
 
Nowadays, there are over 3 million people in Poland considered people with disabilities, which means every 12th citizen is one of them. From the economy point of view its a big, potential labour army. Especially when you take into consideration that over two million Polish citizens work in the countries of the European Union and we have decreasing demographic growth.
 
In 1991 a State Fund for the Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons was created in order to ensure higher chances of finding a job by people with disabilities. It is a state institution supporting rehabilitation and employment of people with disabilities. It is financed from taxes paid by all companies in Poland. The money in the fund is used for the rehabilitation of people with disabilities, help in buying rehabilitation equipment, overcoming barriers and supporting their employment. 
 
Especially to:
 
x/lower the costs of employing people with disabilities by subsidising their renumeration
 
x/subsidising social insurance for people with disabilities who become entrepreneurs
 
x/adjusting work places to people with disabilities
 
x/helping people with disabilities to start their own companies
 
x/supporting cultural, sport and recreational events of people with disabilities
 
x/rehabilitation camps
 
x/occupation therapy 
 
x/buying rehabilitation and orthopedic equipment supporting education of people with disabilities
 
x/supporting non-governmental organisations working for people with disabilities 
x/European cooperation  
 
Thanks to it, many people with disabilities have foundemployment in big, sometimes international companies. Especially now disability to work alongside people who are fully abled.
 
On the dark side, the system of subsidising work places for people with disabilities was a breeding ground for many scams. I know many examples of big, global companies which, tempted by subsidies, would hire people who did not have a disability as if they did. Their business was in creating televisions, but they were also "creating" people with disabilities.
 
Technological advancement and support from state institutions create conditions for dignified work to people with physical disabilities. 
 
Outside of this system, however, there are many people considered mentally disabled. 
 
The term "mentally disabled" is wide and open for modifications. Medical research shows that many people considered to be "disabled" in reality are not. They are just different. And they also have a will to work.
 
In Warsaw there is a cafe opened by Ergo Sum foundation which is run by people with Autism. Those working there no longer wish to be isolated. They want to meet with others, have a family. And earn money. They do not want their cafe to be subsidied, to receive such covert charity.
 
It is not the only such grassroot initiative. There are "Club -Houses" for people experiencing mental health issues, for example, Bipolar, which introduced a new model of Transitional Employment. 
 
It allows people who experience periodical mental health crisis to work in periods when they are able to. 
 
The organisation of Transitional Employment ensures maximum protection of both employee and employer, who gets a trained substitute if the worker experiences a health crisis. In Warsaw such a workplace exists in one of the district halls. 
 
The history of activating people with disabilities into the workforce is also the history of mentally activating people who consider themselves as fully abled.
 
Because the best proof of being fully mentally able is whether they can help to activate people with disabilities on the job market. 
 
Only then will we realise that being different does not equal disability nor allow us permanently exclude them from society.