[EDITORIALS]Acceptance, Not Lip Service

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[EDITORIALS]Acceptance, Not Lip Service

Friday is Disabled Persons' Day. Local governments and social groups stage various events and campaigns to support handicapped people, but most of the events tend to be a one-time thing, providing little in aid to the handicapped.

But those of us lucky enough to be able-bodied are involved as well. According to a report released by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, 89 percent of all disabled persons in the country, some 1,193,000, became handicapped after birth. What if we are disabled in an accident? Nonetheless, the public's enthusiasm to understand and support the disabled still remains at the level of undeveloped countries. It is not easy to find special convenience equipment for handicapped people at public facilities. In January, at a subway station in Ansan, Kyonggi province, an elderly couple rode a special elevator for handicapped to get on the train, but one died after a cable broke and the elevator fell.

Employment is no exception. Handicapped employees of companies with more than 300 full-time employees must number at least 2 percent of the firm's work force, but according to research conducted by the Ministry of Labor, the figure among 1,900 private companies is only 0.91 percent. Even at central and local government offices, supposedly exemplars to others, the figure is only 1.48 percent. The digital divide between disabled persons and the rest of the population is also a serious problem. Only about 7 percent of disabled people use the Internet and 11 percent own their own computers, although 37 percent of the entire population use the Internet and 66 percent own computers.

Prejudice against the handicapped is still serious. A recent poll revealed that 81 percent of us would not give birth to a child we knew would be handicapped; the figure was 82 percent in 1984.

Still, we hear stories which give us hope, such as schools that remodeled buildings for just one handicapped student, like Samgwang Junior High School in Paju, Kyonggi province. It's time to plan more practical policies for disabled people. But, the problem can be truly solved only when we accept them equally as our neighbors.
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