Why this story matters:
Clifford Portelli, receptionist at the National Commission for the Rights of Persons with a Disability, now has another title: trailblazer. He is the first person to receive a license in Malta to drive from a wheelchair.
But Portelli, who is paralyzed from the neck down, struggled to find businesses that were able to service his special vehicle.
A recent report by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights labels the Maltese government’s approach to adopting regulations that affect people with disabilities as “good practice.” Some of the changes in Malta are due to Portelli's proactive stance.
But in an interview, he said regulation and rights are not enough. More needs to be done by businesses so people can drive independently.
Portelli's story is full of optimism, but it makes clear that accessing one's rights sometimes depends on business compliance.
He had to wait for a law to be passed before he could even drive his car
- A 2011 UN Convention recognizes disability as a legal issue rather than a mere welfare matter.
- Improving disabled persons’ access to services like transportation is a United Nation obligation, connected with the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
- Universal design of products and services means that people with disabilities do not need anyone's help or mercy to go about their daily lives.