Today is the National Day of Persons with Disabilities in Algeria. Every year, on March 14, Algeria remembers this part of our society just like it does with women on the IWD. Disabled people are actually luckier than women as Algeria also remembers them on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (December 3) but they are luckier only on the paper.
I don’t know about you but, very often, I wonder how physically disabled Algerians do in Algeria. This usually happens while walking in my city’s streets and noticing their very bad state which is dangerous for the most fit among us, let alone the disabled. Then a second thought comes and it’s that I seldom see disabled people in Algeria. And indeed, if I exclude the few ones who beg here and there, the only disabled I see seem to be the mentally ill experiencing a relapse.
Several times a year, one can read in the newspapers about this or that family with several disabled members who are confined within the house, often in a very bad condition, because of their family’s poverty and inability to treat them. A few weeks ago, Ennahar TV showed a family with two or three mentally ill children, one of them being chained to a tree because he was dangerous said his father.
A few months ago, Algeria’s Paralympic team won no less than 19 medals (4 gold and 6 silver) and yet they received a very light press coverage. Nothing comparable to Toufik Makhloufi and the Olympics team with only one medal (gold). This is to show how most of us do not care much about this category of our nationals as even the “talented” among them are not fully recognized.
But before speaking of the disabled situation, it is necessary to know how many they are. And we actually do not know their number exactly. Today’s figures are based on the prevalence defined by the United Nations. So depending on how they classify Algeria, stable with a prevalence of 5% or in war (during the 90s) with a prevalence of 10%, people say Algeria’s disabled people are about 2 million or 4 million people. The government launched a survey two years ago in order to have a more accurate information on the numbers and needs of this category and I hope this will help in dealing with them.
Youngsters with disabilities face many issues related to their education and healthcare. The financial help given to their parents is also important. The minister of national solidarity and family, Souad Bendjaballah, said last year her ministry would start thinking of how to promote and improve the educational supervision of the disabled. According to this old source, Algeria’s offer is something like 182 specialised schools including 42 for the deaf, 24 for the blind and 110 for the mentally retarded. Some other schools are being built. All these schools host about 16,197 pupils, and more than 1,200 disabled children do attend normal schools. But the number of disabled children not going to school is in the range of many thousands. The same source reports that the government admits that only five professional training centres are available in Algeria, which is far from enough.
As for adults, it is their right to having a revenue, a job, a home and access to transportation and other amenities that is highlighted.
The disabled receive 4,000 DZD (it was 3,000 DZD before 2007) monthly from the government and all Algerians know this is not enough to make a decent living. It is even suppressed if the person with a disability is employed, and people below 18 are not entitled to get it. Disabled associations want this to be re-evaluated and increased to 21,000 DZD and they want it for all the disabled regardless of their age or occupation.
The same associations want the government to increase the percentage of disabled to be employed by every company to 5%. It is 1% today and it is not even respected. I wonder if the companies not abiding by this rule are fined.
Disabled people pay less taxes on imported adapted vehicles, but it seems this is the case only for those with a disability on their left leg! The rest have therefore the choice of paying the full bill or using the public transportation. This could indeed be a solution as disabled people are granted free access to transportation run by state companies but it is useless as most urban transportation is handled by private operators. Also, access to the buses and stations is not suitable for wheelchairs, etc.
And I can make the same comment on the access to housing and other buildings. Rules and regulations exist but, as usual, nobody applied them as the state doesn’t control their application.
The survey’s results are expected sometime this year and, hopefully, the government will seriously study the situation and problems and works towards a solution.
I end this post by sharing some information/links:
- El Amel association in Beb El Oued organised last December the 1st semi-marathon for people on wheelchairs with the participation of 61 runners including Said Guerni Djabir.
- A 2010 radio file on the topic.
- Facebook page, Twitter and blog of the Algerian Federation of Persons with Disabilities.
- Facebook page of Algerian disabled people.
- Website of the Joussour program.
You may want to read this story of a disabled woman published by the The British Embassy in Algiers.
[Update] Below is a video showing a café in Algiers managed by a deaf association and with a majority of deaf clients. Thanks DZCalling for sharing.