Why this story matters:
For the past five weeks, a group of disabled grown-ups and their parents have occupied the corridors of the Polish parliament (Sejm). They are protesting against the living conditions of disabled Poles.
But out of their two key demands, the government agreed to fulfil only one -- a higher pension. However, for the protesters, the second one -- a monthly benefit -- is a gateaway to a dignified life.
Adrian Glinka, who has been in Sejm from the beginning of the protest, recalled how he tried to move away from his mother's home but could not survive on his pension:
"I paid the rent, bought a loaf of bread but couldn't afford shoes. Not to mention rehab," he claims.
In a conversation with the TVN TV channel, Iwona Hartwich, protest leader and mother of a handicapped son, said that the group felt cheated twice. For the first time, when the government signed an agreement with the representatives of disabled people's organizations, bypassing the protesters. Then again, when instead of providing them with financial resources, they announced that disabled people would receive reductions in the costs of medications, rehab and doctor's appointments.
To them this is a paternalistic approach, and no wonder, as it implies that their lives revolve around their health condition. Can't a disabled person want to go to the cinema, or on holidays? A dignified life is not only free of pain but also involves pleasure.
Details from the story:
- The protest has been going on for a month.
- President Andrzej Duda signed a bill which only partially fulfills the demands of the protesters. As of June 1, 2018, their monthly pension will be raised from 865,03 zł (200 euros) to 1029,80 zł (240 euros).
- They intend to stay in the Sejm until the government agrees to their second demand -- the 500 zloty (115 euros) benefit for disabled people over 18 years old. The parents of the protesters believe this to be crucial for when they become too old to care for their children.
- However, there are allegations that soon the group will be removed from Sejm under the excuse of a fire alarm, as the NATO meeting in Warsaw is looming.
- Recently, Janina Ochojska, the iconic head of Polish Humanitarian Action (PAH) and a disabled person herself, wanted to meet with the protesters but was denied entry into Sejm. She commented that it was easier to get into besieged Sarajevo in 1992.