No major progress in the lives of persons with disabilities

3 December 2020
Area of action: All areas of action
Grounds of discrimination: Disability

On December 3, 2019, International Day for Persons with Disabilities, Unia launched a survey to let people with disabilities have their say on ten major themes. A total of 1144 people participated in this study. Now, one year later, we can announce the results of the survey.

With the survey, Unia wanted to gain a better understanding of the obstacles that make it difficult for persons with disabilities to exercise their rights. The information collected helps to orient our work and also provides input for the parallel report for the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the context of Belgium's second evaluation.

The survey investigated ten topics: education, work, accessibility, choice of place of residence, standard of living, participation in political and public life, life from a relational, affective and sexual perspective, participation in culture and leisure activities, respect for the physical and psychological integrity and the image people have of the disability.

Unia concludes that most respondents state that there has been no major progress in recent years and that they talk about the numerous difficulties they encounter in exercising their rights. Being able to lead a decent life appears to be one of the biggest concerns. Respondents are also concerned about society's image of their disability.

No inclusion without a decent income

“60% of the respondents say that their disability prevents a decent standard of living”, says Els Keytsman, director of Unia. “A decent standard of living means proper food, clothing and housing.” The extra costs associated with the disability are extremely high, according to the respondents. “And the benefits they receive enable them to merely survive.”

The employment rate for people with disabilities is very low in Belgium. Moreover, you often find them in more precarious jobs or part-time jobs. “Without a decent standard of living, these people cannot live where they want and with whom they want,” says Keytsman. “They cannot enter into relationships with others or enjoy leisure time activities.”

From stereotypes to violence

61% of the respondents reported in the consultation that the way others view their disability prevents them from living the life they want. On the street, at school, in the media, also in their affective and sex life, the disability is automatically accompanied by a whole series of clichés, expressions of incomprehension, things to which they have no right and even violence. “They are tired of being viewed with condescension,” said Keytsman. “They want to have better treatment and don't want to be seen as a separate group”.

The government must act

These worrying findings are reason enough for Unia to ask the Belgian government to make rapid efforts to ensure that persons with disabilities can fully exercise the rights enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Would you like to learn more? All recommendations and testimonials can be found in the report.

A few testimonials from the report

“We still have to pay for too many medical things ourselves, which means that we are forced to work with payment plans. The majority of the benefits will go towards non-reimbursed medical expenses. This reduces us to poverty and I have to go to the food bank every month. An excursion is not possible! Great life that we have! Sometimes I wish I wasn’t alive!”

“I don't have much choice, either I live with a partner, and have no income, or I live with family and receive no income, or I live alone with an unacceptable income, with which I can only afford a small, poorly maintained apartment.”

“The worst part is that they address my partner instead of talking to me, my back, my spine, my legs are bad, but my brain works fine.”

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