Thursday, September 23, 2010

How Do We View the Handicapped in Society?

In Korea the treatment of the handicapped has  changed a great deal  since the  proclamation of the welfare law for the  handicapped in 1989. The "Window of the Ark" opinion column in the Catholic Times, written by a director of a Welfare Service, describes the problems that remain even though much of the prejudice has  disappeared. Policies enacted for the handicapped have improved their living conditions, handicap-friendly facilities have continued to appear throughout the city, and the welcoming for the  handicapped is noticeable in many business establishments.

The law forbidding discrimination of the handicapped was passed in 2008, and amended to strengthen the law the following year. Good news, but it also means problems still existed which necessitated the law. The basic principle affecting the welfare of the handicapped is their entitlement to the same  human rights and dignity we all share. Although they may be bodily or mentally disadvantaged, they should enjoy the same benefits given to all other citizens. This is basic and has to be stressed.  Strange  as it may seem, there are many who do not realize how basic this is.

Some look upon these disadvantaged persons as if they were faulty products. Typical attitudes are reflected by such statements as: "He is a simpleton; if you speak, he doesn't understand; if you feed him, he will work. To feed them and give them a place to sleep is all that is necessary;  give them wages you say?  They do  little work, and  don't   do it well."

Although there is, in theory, a difference of opinion on how to treat the handicapped, the statements above indicate how many are treated in the practical every day situations by some  who hire the handicapped.  They not only do not give them a wage for the work they are able to do, but also take the government subsidy that the handicapped receives.The disadvantaged, the director emphasizes, are not dispensable; it's good to remember that if they are dispensible because of their handicap, all of us are potentially handicapped. As we get older, there  is a good chance we will be in their position. We are all preparing to be handicapped. And some, even before reaching old age, might also be considered handicapped, even though society fails to acknowledge the handicap.

We do not consider, for example, persons wearing glasses handicapped. They choose to wear glasses to remedy a defect in eyesight, and no one gives it a second thought. However, if someone feels embarrassed when wearing glasses, or goes without them when needing to wear them, or when wearing them avoids appearing in public, then that person is handicapped.

The same can be said about someone using a wheel chair. When he is not embarrassed and those who see him do not consider it strange, he is not handicapped.When this simple fact is routinely accepted by all, then we will realize what it is to be living  in God's world.

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