New legislation to improve integration of disabled into Czech society

Only in the last few years has the question of integrating the physically disabled into society been discussed in the Czech Republic, and Wednesday saw a conference in Prague to discuss new legislation to improve the situation. Dr Jan Hutar is from the country's National Council for the Disabled, and earlier he told Radio Prague about the greatest challenges facing disabled people in the Czech Republic. Nicole Negowetti reports.

Friday, April 27, 2001 "There are two great challenges, the first is to have full integration, to have equal rights and opportunities as other people and the second is employment".

Dr Hutar said there was still much work to be done to remove the system of virtual segregation of disabled people established under the Communist regime.

"It is a new legislation and a new conception of education. For example, until the year 1989, we had almost total separation of the disabled people. They had special schools, special education, special high schools, and they were employed in special cooperatives and firms".

Although unemployment has fallen in the Czech Republic, the number of disabled people out of work has actually increased. Dr Hutar discussed the loophole in the current legislation, which allows employers to pay a small sum into the budget rather than hiring handicapped workers. However, under the new legislation, companies will be more accountable for the employment of the disabled.

"They are obliged, if they have more than 20 employees to have 5% of them disabled, but they can also fulfill this obligation by paying a small amount to the state budget but the sum is very small. It is only about 6,500 Czech crowns. The new legislation is preparing for equalization in education and for integration,"Mr Hutar said.

Author: Nicole Negowetti
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