In the run-up to the general election, Breaking Limits Malta, an organisation of disabled people, working for the full inclusion of disabled people in all spheres of Maltese society would like to remind all political parties of the commitments taken in Malta’s ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, not least to making all spaces accessible.
For many disabled people, though, accessibility remains inexistent, inappropriate or not up to standard. Many risk their own safety, because ramps are too steep for wheelchairs, kerbs are not wide enough and lamp posts, potholes and other objects obstruct pathways for people with visual impairments among others. For many, this continues to mean social isolation and exclusion- barred at home.
The notion that ‘accessibility provisions are ‘optional’ continues as insidious as ever, where if there are others who can help them enter a building, then accessibility is a non-issue, and if not, tough luck. Rights and dignity need to be respected at all times, and at all costs. It is certainly not dignifying, for a wheelchair user to be carried up flights of steps, be forced to use a service lift, or wait for a side entrance to be opened to enter a building. What about those who have no help to depend on?
Breaking Limits highlights that any government must promote policies and initiatives aimed at improving accessibility to the open and built environment not as a token gesture but as a question of rights without further excuses. Education and raising awareness about the issue remain key.
Ultimately, improving accessibility improves the quality of life not only for disabled people, but also the elderly, parents using a pushchair and small children. The easier it is for people to participate in society’s economic and social activities, the more a society has to gain. This is what genuine inclusion is in practice. It is time for all parties to take us seriously as a sizeable portion of the voting nation, now with full rights and ability to seek redress.