[EDITORIALS]The festivities ring hollow

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[EDITORIALS]The festivities ring hollow

Today is the 22d day set aside to celebrate disabled people. The government designated this date to remind us of the social bias that exists against people with physical challenges and help them obtain a sense of independence by holding commemorative ceremonies and celebrations. But the welfare of disabled persons has not improved much over the years. Not surprising, they have rejected the array of government activities and are holding a separate festival under the slogan "Do Away With Discrimination Against the Disabled."

An organizing committee made up of 90 civic groups representing the disabled are demanding that "government change the social structure, which discriminates against the disabled, rather than providing mercy and sympathy for a day." Essentially, they are demanding that the government and society work to provide means of transport, minimum living expenses and eliminate bias against the disabled in employment. They say that in order to work and to obtain education they have to be mobile. However, implementation of demands to install wheelchair-assisting equipment on buses and in subways is going at a snail's pace because the government is balking on the task.

Statistics show that 51.6 percent of disabled persons in Korea completed only elementary school, suggesting the bias they suffer in getting a proper education. Of children between the ages of 6 and 17, about 200,000 require special education facilities. Existing facilities can accommodate only about 50,000 students. Discrimination also happens in the workplace. The law says companies that hire 300 or more employees must set aside 2 percent of their slots for the disabled. But of the 1,891 firms covered by the rule, only 17.5 percent were found to be fulfilling the requirement. In the government, which should be setting an example, only 1.2 percent of jobs were filled by disabled persons.

Recently, the National Human Rights Commission ordered the city of Jecheon, North Chungcheong province, to "redress" the refusal to hire the most qualified candidate as head of a local health center because of his disability. The panel's decision illustrates what must be done. The bright and active faces of challenged people working at tollgates in Cheongju also illustrates what we need to do. Providing jobs is more important than a day of hollow festivities.
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