Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Romania celebrates International Day of People with Disabilities

World Vision joined Romanian NGOs and State institutions to increase public awareness of the rights of people with disabilities on 3 December, International Day of People with Disabilities. The conjugated effort in the cities of Cluj, Valcea and Bucharest also served to inform and sensitize the public to the dignity and needs of people with disabilities.

'It is critical to channel public attention towards adults and children with disabilities. They contribute to our society, each individual in a unique way,' says Edit Laszlo, World Vision project coordinator.

In Cluj, children and teenagers with mental and physical disabilities danced, sang and performed skits. By being on stage and performing in front of other people, the children and teens learned to cope with their fears and self-imposed limitations generated by their awareness of being different from others. The event, organized in part by Samus Vocational School, also included an exhibition and sale of crafts made by teenagers with disabilities.

'The teenagers gathered here today are brilliant artists who deserve our admiration and encouragement for fighting stigma through art,' says Edit Laszlo, World Vision project coordinator.

'Did they come to buy from us? Did they really like it?' said a teen from World Vision's Youth in Transition Project, amazed at the sight of the first buyer. The teenagers, who live in orphanages, created the crafts when participating in support groups to help them become socially integrated.

In Valcea, World Vision staff distributed leaflets on the streets and in supermarkets to challenge the public's openness to and understanding of people with disabilities.

Some 130 children with mental and physical impairments participated in drawing contests in Valcea and Craiova. The children, aged three to nine, are beneficiaries of World Vision's Community Center for Social Services in Valcea and Area Development Program in Craiova. Every child was praised and received prizes, such as toys, t-shirts and sweets, from World Vision staff.

In the capital, Bucharest, World Vision partnered with the local Department of Education to spread informational leaflets in kindergartens and mobilize the teachers to help students and parents accept people disabilities as equal and valued members of society. At present, many Romanians are reticent towards people with disabilities.

There are nearly 500,000 people with disabilities in Romania, according to the Romanian National Authority for People with Disabilities. Romania has struggled for the past 17 years to recuperate from the negative impact of four decades of communism, which did not value people with disabilities. Prior to 1990, people with disabilities were considered society's forgotten and neglected ones.

Today Romanian law ensures equal human rights for people with disabilities. Legislation issued in 2007 requires all public spaces and transportation to supply access facilities for people with physical disabilities.

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