Ensure more rights for disabled
Regarding an April 20 editorial entitled ``Let's make a difference," I totally agree with the author's opinion that we should endeavor to make the country a better place for the physically and mentally challenged, in particular, by providing equal educational opportunities.
It was Disabled Persons Day when my seven-year-old son returned from his kindergarten and was keen to enlighten me on disabled people. He made strenuous efforts to tell me we should help people with disabilities, because they were all our friends.
I have to admit that it is adults including myself that have practiced prejudice and discrimination against the disabled. Consequently, people with disabilities are often deprived of their opportunities and rights for education. According to the OECD Secretariat, disability rates are significantly higher among groups with lower educational attainment. On average, 19 percent of less educated people have disabilities, compared to 11 percent among the better educated.
Basic direction for educating disabled children in Korea is aiming for inclusive education in nearby regular schools. In order to achieve this goal, the government should expand its budget to provide schools with various facilities, equipment, and human resources.
However, Korea's budget on welfare spending for the disabled ranks near the bottom ― it has been stuck at 0.1 percent of GDP from 1990 through 2005. The nation's budget cut for supporting people with disabilities by 2.7 percent this year is disgraceful. The government has launched the four-river refurbishment project and it aims to invest 22.2 trillion won by 2011, whereas the equivalent of one-40th of the sum has been set aside for the disabled.
Recently special education in Korea has made tremendous progress. However, it is true that the nation still needs to enhance its quantity and quality. It is time to build a social and psychological environment where we can all accept people with disabilities as our neighbors and friends by sharing a sense of responsibility.