Enforce laws for disabled

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Enforce laws for disabled

The honorees at this year’s Day of Persons with Disabilities, or “Physically Handicapped Day,” are true heroes who have triumphed over their disabilities. But most of their peers are not so lucky, left behind or in the dark fighting with their impairments without aid or encouragement.

Korea has made great strides in developing a legal and physical infrastructure to protect and support the disabled, but there remains much to be done due to poor public awareness and understanding, the cost burden and lukewarm enforcement. The biggest obstacle is the obligation to integrate the disabled into the corporate world.

Under current law, the central government and local government institutions must hire disabled workers for more than 3 percent of its workforce, while the requirement for corporate employers is set at above 2 percent. But as of the end of last year, the hire rate at central and local governments was 1.76 percent on average. If the government remains so reluctant and halfhearted, how can it demand corporations to be more aggressive in employing the disabled?

In fact, many corporate employers opt to pay fines instead of offering jobs to the disabled.

The disabled population will remain isolated from the job market unless the public sector acts first.

At a recent Cabinet meeting, the government concocted various plans to raise the proportion of disabled workers to 3 percent by 2012. We hope they stick to their plan this time. They may have to use the stick to realize the goal.

Local governments this year were more enterprising in employing disabled staff, fearing lower state funding for education after the government decided to reflect the hiring rate in performance reviews.

At the same time, the government should also be forceful in obligatory measures to provide a more comfortable, accessible and less discriminatory environment for people with physical disabilities.

Since earlier this month, public institutions, hospitals and welfare centers have been required to redesign their Web sites to make them more accessible to users with disabilities. But so far only government-related offices have abided by the rules. Arts centers and sports-related institutions are required to meet the guidelines by next year, but it is doubtful at this stage whether they will cooperate.

What use are good laws if they exist to be ignored? Instead of coming up with new laws, the government should concentrate on making existing laws work.
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