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Gordon's D-Zone Arcive (2006-2014)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Letter: A Passage to Independence

I have read with interest the many contributions regarding independent living for disabled people in this newspaper. As a person with a disability, I have a personal interest in any discussion on this important right.

However, the issue of independent living is not a simple topic and requires us to have a clear policy that addresses the situation of people with disabilities having different impairments, as well as those individuals who have complex or maximum support needs.

It's crucial to point out that independent living goes beyond the provision of accessible housing or personal assistance and support. Undeniably, these are two central principles underpinning independent living but they do not guarantee this right. In fact, the philosophy of independent living stresses the importance of having an opportunity to choose how we live our lives and thus exert self-determination. In this sense, personal assistance that does not fulfil these two principles cannot guarantee our independence on their own.

Agenzija Sapport has been doing a great job in ensuring disabled people continue living in their own communities. Moreover, at the basis of its mission statement is a commitment to involve disabled people at every stage of service provision.

However, Sapport is forced to work within limits - both in terms of financial and human resources. It cannot be emphasised enough that this agency needs more state funding to ensure it continues assisting people with disabilities remain in the community and contribute to work while participating in the life of their community.

However, for us to have the opportunity to live independently, we also need to have equal access to mainstream buildings and services, to transport and housing, for example. In addition, we should not be excluded from education and employment opportunities and to be given chances like our able-bodied peers.

Such access would enable us to be empowered while being active contributors in our society while helping the economy by being workers and consumers.

On another note, we need to revise our current benefit system by assigning benefits to people with disabilities according to their particular impairment needs and social situation. This would ensure that people with disabilities and families requiring substantial financial assistance receive adequate aid.

I believe that people with disabilities should involve ourselves in any debate on independent living. I feel it's important for us to transcend our own impairment group and recognise the right for independent living as the right of every disabled person - irrespective of impairment. As a person with a physical disability, I cannot ignore the importance of intellectually disabled people having their right to independent living respected. In addition, we also need to be open to the views of parents of people with disabilities, who cannot represent themselves on this matter.

Only by being a united front can we truly move forward on this and other issues. However, a word of caution: although we should welcome the interest of political parties on this and similar issues, we should be careful not to turn this issue into a partisan issue.


Source:

Cardona, Gordon C. (10/05/2009) "A Passage to Independence" in: The Sunday Times of Malta Online, http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20090510/letters/a-passage-to-independence (Accessed 10 May
2009)

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