Breaking Limits Malta would like to express substantial concern over the political discourse surrounding the issue of disability as we approach the general election. Last week in an article in MaltaToday (“Lawrence Gonzi underlines PN’s inclusiveness”), the prime minister attempts to depict a scenario of genuine inclusion in Malta. While positive changes have indeed occurred in the past two decades, many minorities continue to face the stark reality of oppression, not least, disabled people.
Having a policy or two or even ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, does not mean that policies are implemented, enforced, or that rights are respected. In fact, physical accessibility remains abysmal in Malta. Public transport remains inaccessible to many disabled people. Information, particularly in the Maltese language, also remains limited and inaccessible, impacting democracy as well as the ability to make informed decisions.
Despite the rhetorical political overload on formal education, most disabled people, especially those with learning difficulties, do not progress beyond secondary level. Education also fails to challenge the negative stereotypes of disabled people perpetuated in much of the same education as well as the media.
In practice, disabled people continue to be marginalized, discriminated and excluded from most aspects of life, with severe impacts on their quality of life.
We at Breaking Limits believe in capitalizing on the resources of each person and collaborating for change. Genuine empowerment implies that disabled people make their own choices, be involved in all decisions affecting their lives, and act when their voices are stifled. We call for effective channels for the voices of disabled people to be heard, to articulate their concerns- and this does not mean the voices of a few disabled people in powerful positions speaking FOR disabled people. Secondly, disabled people themselves need to come up with solutions- not non-disabled people! Thirdly, we need to knock down the barriers to their full participation in all aspects of life on equal footing in order to become fully contributing citizens. Equality is a right, not an act of charity. Finally, political action – not talk – is what truly matters. In the countdown to the general election, we at Breaking Limits call on the three parties to respond to our demands for physical and informational accessibility, inclusive education and health, and independent living along other issues with commitments written on paper.