Disabled people protest Czech President's claims that inclusion is harmful
During Czech President Miloš Zeman's visit to the town of Krásná Lípa (Děčín district) today, approximately 30 persons living with disabilities from around the Šluknov foothills area protested his remarks about the inappropriateness of educating disabled and non-disabled children together. The protesters wanted to discuss the remarks, made three weeks ago, with the head of state.
Zeman merely waved at the protesters as he drove up to meet with business people at a local brewery. Monika Lampová, one of the organizers of today's "happening", said the inclusion of disabled people into mainstream society is essential.
"Twenty years ago, all of these people were shut up behind bars in institutions, and today they are walking down the street normally with everyone else. The only possible way forward is that of integration. Any other path leads back to the Middle Ages or to Russia," said Lampová, who has worked with disabled people around the area for many years.
The President made his remarks about inclusion on a visit to the Pardubice Region in mid-January. "I am not an advocate of the opinion that children who are handicapped in a certain way should be placed into classrooms with non-handicapped pupils, because that is unfortunate for both... This is not racism, nor is it a preference for an ethnic group, but children are far happier when they are in a community of their equals... From the point of view of their well-being, it is far better that the practical classes exist... I do not like [inclusion] at all,.. I am against it," he said.
Žaneta, a 31-year-old protester who spent many long years in an institution, did not like the President's remarks. She has lived on her own for the last six years.
"I work in a local hotel, I live on my own. I used to be in an institution here in Krásná Lípa, but I didn't like it there. Now I know how to commute by myself - I travel to Liberec to go snowboarding," Žaneta said.
The President did not stop to interact with the protesters today. "I am disappointed and sad about that, for my clients' sake. They wanted to tell him about how they go to normal schools, how they hold jobs. Some of them have moved out of the institutions and are living normal lives," Lampová said.
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