Persons with Disabilities in Cyprus and Their Issues

Literature review

Disability has been defined as the absence of ability in relation to either personal or a group norm or standard (Bowe 1978). In light of this, disability could involve sensory impairment, mental disorder, physical impairment, intellectual or cognitive impairment, as well as a variety of other kinds of diseases that are chronic (Wehmeyer 1998).

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In addition, a disability could start as early as at birth, or come in later in life (Oliver 1997). Persons with disability do not constitute a homogenous group. These are individuals that differ with respect to age, races, languages, cultures, experiences, genders, choices and lifestyles. These people alto tend to differ with regard to their incomes, social and political commitments, as well as histories. They also tend to comprehend, express, and come into terms with disability in a variety of ways (Albrecht 2005).

Persons with disability are without doubt ranked as some of the most vulnerable members of a society. Their living situations are often characterized by poverty, social exclusion, and unemployment (Finkelstein & Stuart 1996). The year 2003 was dedicated to persons with disability in Europe, in an attempt at advancing the quality of their lives. The ensuing efforts and activities achieved tremendous results to this end, but a lot more needs to be done, considering that well over 15 percent of the entire population in Europe is made up of people with disabilities.

Medical form of disability

This model tends to view disability as a problem odd an individual, and which has come about as a direct result of trauma, disease, as well as a host of other medical conditions, thus calling for the provision of professional health care (Wonacott 2002)

The medical model for disability is more concerned with facilitating a management of the condition, or at least to facilitate an individual either change or adjust their behavior, to allow for the attainment of an effective cure (Oliver 1996).

The medical form thus lays emphasis on medical care as the prime issue of a person with disabilities. On the other hand, the political point of view regarding the same issue is to either reform or modify the policies of the healthcare (Ingstad & Whyte 1995).

Social form of disability

According to this model, the disability issue is viewed at as a problem that has been created socially. It is thus more concerned with ensuring that persons that have disabilities get integrated into the social circle in life fully. The model thus tends not to attribute disability o an individual, unlike the medical model (Capra 1996).

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Instead, this model is informed by complicated and collective conditions that call for social action. For this reason, the society and the surrounding environment for persons with disabilities are usually called upon to institute the much needed modifications in the environment, and which shall see to it that all the persons with disabilities in the environment are able to fully participate in diverse spheres of life. As such, equal access for all persons is highlighted, and the social model’s major concern becomes an issue of human rights.

The conventional treaty by the United Nations for people with disability was agreed upon formally on the 13th of December, 2006, with a view to enhancing and protecting the opportunities and rights of the people with disability in the world (Abery & Stancliffe 1996).

Those nations that become signatory to the convention shall be obligated to assume national laws while at the same time discarding the old ones, in order that people with disability may, for instance, enjoy equal education rights, cultural life, employment, non-discrimination in marriage, right of both owning and inheriting property, as well as not being subjected to medical experiments without consent.

The international year of persons with disability was officially launched by the United Nations in 1976. Between 1983 and 1993, this was a decade long period during which a global action program for persons with disability was featured. Nevertheless, movement rights for persons with disabilities can be traced as far back as the 1970s

This sense of self-advocacy has largely been attributed to paradigm shifts towards accessibility living independently that could now be regarded as a characteristic of its members. The movements has its origins in the civil rights of the United States, but has now spread across the other continents, where its philosophies have continued to impact on the self-perception of persons with disability, the manner in which such persons are able to organize themselves, as well as having an impact on the social policy of individual countries (Ingstad & Whyte 1995).

Current issues for persons with disabilities

Some of the debates and current issue that surrounds “disability” include social inclusion, political and social rights, and citizenship (Oliver 1996). In the countries that are developed, the debate seems to have moved a notch higher, beyond what can only be regarded as a “perceived cost” of taking care of people with disability to a point where now, the governments of such countries are concerned about integrating people with disability towards contributing to the development of the societies that they live in, as well as in virtually all the spheres of life (Priestley 1998).

Nevertheless, it is the view of a majority of the people that the greatest effort ought to be directed towards the empowering of the disabled people in the developing countries. It is in these countries that a sizeable number of the over 650 million people with disability worldwide live (Albrecht 2005). There is thus a need for the implementation of physical accessibility by education, coupled with self-empowerment in these regions. In addition, creation of employment opportunities to facilitate their support is also needed.

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Issues of persons with disability in Cyprus

During the 1992 census of persons with disabilities in Cyprus, the definition of these persons appeared to deviate from the one that was used by the 2002 survey of the labor force. The 1992 definition termed disability in view of those persons that had limitations in their activities as a result of a chronic problem, disease, or a disability due to either a mental or physical inability (Cyprus Republic 1999).

Conversely, the 2002 definition viewed persons with disability as those that were characterized by long-term health conditions, and which had either persisted for over 6 months, or were expected to prevail for that long. Due to this deviation in terms of definition, perhaps this could help explain the observable differences in the documented number of persons with disabilities.

Cyprus has 23, 785 persons who have been identified as having one form of disability or another. Of these, 19 percent (4513) have a disability of the organs of perception, 50 percent are categorized as being disabled physically (11909), 2,059 have mental disability (8.6 %), 2,140 are disabled psychologically (9 %), while the remaining 12.5 % (2,968) have other forms of disabilities (Cyprus republic 2007).

In Cyprus, there is no general view of persons with disability being discriminated against with regard to either the provision of services by the state, or in education. Among the communities in the Greek Cypriot, persons with disability that seeks to be considered for employment positions in the public sector are accorded preference as long as they have their qualifications are at per with those of the non-disabled, and it is also deemed that they are quite capable to adequately perform the tasks under their job description

Thanks to legislation, it is now a requirement that tourist facilities and new buildings that serve the public offers access to persons with disability. Nevertheless, the enforcement of such a law remains weak (Cyprus republic 2007). ). Businesses that operate in the “Turkish Cypriot community” are required by law give a job to one disabled persons for every 25 job vacancies that they seek to fill. Again, enforcement of this regulation appears to be still inconsistent, despite an enhanced awareness over the issue.

Employment

For most people, employment improve their living standards, enhances their self-esteem, satisfaction and self-determination. Similar sentiments are also shared by persons with disability, as employment helps them gain independence, attain social inclusion and participate equally in all spheres of life (Barnes 1996).

Cyprus lacks compiled statistics that addresses the employment records of persons with disabilities. Nevertheless, a majority of the organizations for persons with disabilities tend to publish document individual statistics on the basis of the records at their disposal.

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The main challenges that seems to hinder the employment of persons with disabilities in Cyprus includes a limitation with regard to job options, limited accessibility due to for example inadequate transport infrastructure, as well as the absence of such physical infrastructures as landmarks, appropriate pavements and public areas that are clustered together (Aggelides 2004 ). As such, persons with disability are hindered from fully participating in their places of work.

Education

According to Barnes (1996), inclusive education has been defined as that inclusive process that embraces all students as individuals, reviewing the provision and organisation of their curriculum as well.

In Cyprus for example, those children who have already been considered as persons with disability are usually integrated into the curriculum of the mainstream school system in line with the directives of the state. This is in keeping with the 1999 Education Act for children who are disabled, and which was passed by the parliament (Phtiaka 1999).

The education act for persons with disabilities provides that special education should be limited to those children and youths that have been categorized as being disabled (Spyrou 2002). For example, those that requires specific “learning disability”. In addition, the eligibility of a student into such a program requires that they engage in special education, as well as such other related services as language pathology and speech.

These issues are not fully implemented and addressed in the case persons with disabilities in Cyprus, owing to a laxity on the part of the law enforcement officers of the government. As such, persons with disability are still discriminated against in the education circles, despite there being laws that protects this vulnerable group against this.

Specific issues and impacts

In Cyprus, persons with disability have to daily grapple with the discrimination on the basis of their prevailing condition. Some of this discrimination tends to manifest itself in a number of ways, some of which includes:

  • Limited or less access to information for persons with disabilities with regard to their entitlements, rights, support structures and essential services availability. When people are able to access relevant information, this forms the first step to their making of informed choices. When persons with disabilities are able to access information, then they are able to get hold of opportunities and choices as well.
  • The absence of service provision that are culturally competent in both the specialist and mainstream services
  • Prevalence of misconceptions, myths and harmful stereotypes regarding the issue of disability.
  • The absence of effective policies and legislative directions, and interventions by the government.

Organizations for people with disabilities in Cyprus

All the organizations that are known to take care of the persons with disabilities have been integrated into one umbrella organization. Currently, there lack legal provisions in Cyprus that gives mandate to the persons with disabilities in be actively engaged in the making of policies, or even working with institutions of the government.

Nevertheless, the umbrella organizations for person with disabilities is usually consulted at such a time as when the government my need to prepare law and regulations that shall have an impact on this vulnerable group be it at the local regional or even the national level. In addition, the government tries to give financial assistance to such organizations. Despite all this, persons with disabilities in Cyprus are extremely limited in terms of participation in government activities, political parties, and the judiciary.

The organizations for the disabled persons in Cyprus are charged with the responsibility of improving services of their members, advocating for their rights, the mobilizations of such members, identification of the need and priorities of their members, getting involved in the preparation, execution and implementation of measures and services, making a contribution to public awareness, giving services to members, as well as the promotion of activities that generates income for the organizations.

Statement of the problem

The plight of persons with disabilities has elicited mixed feelings and reactions over the yare, ever since the United Nations ratified a convention for these persons in 1976. As a result, there has been a heightened increase in the concern for persons with disabilities on the part of the respective governments, in keeping with the conventions promises (Barnes 1996).

All countries that are signatory to this conventions are thus obliged by law to recognize the current issues that seem to discriminate against the persons with disabilities, be it with respect to their race, nationality, gender, level of education, cognitive intelligence, or physical and mental inability (Johnstone 2001). Sadly though, the greatest problem thus far has been in the honoring of this pledge by the member countries.

In Cyprus, the case is no different. Although the state has recognized the place of the persons with disabilities, they are yet to be accorded the treatment that they rightly deserve by law, owing to a poor implementation and regulation of such laws (Finkelstein & Stuart 1996).

Furthermore, the number of the persons with disabilities seems to be rising every year in Cyprus. This coupled with the fact that awareness for the rights, privileges and requirements of the group are now more recognized thanks to pressure from civil rights groups, indicates the extent to which the state may be less committed to the enactment of the laws that takes care of persons with disabilities.

Moreover, details about persons with disabilities in Cyprus appear to be both limited and sketchy, with a majority of the published data being restricted to the respective organizations that deal with persons with disabilities. Even then, the criteria that is often employed by these individual organizations in determining the issues that are faced by the persons with disability appears to be restricted to the respective organizations, and this could account for the deviations in as far as these issues are concerned.

Person with disability continues to be discriminated against in Cyprus, in such sectors as the education, where despite the requirement that they be subjected to a special education curriculum that facilities the improvement of their listening ad cognitive skills, this has more or less been implemented albeit to a lesser degree.

There is also a limitation in the number of, for example interpreters for persons with disabilities, as the state has not set aside a budget that takes care of such a group. In terms of accessibility, persons with disability in Cyprus are limited in both capability and choice by a lack of proper and adequate information that provides them with their rights, entitlements, and support structures.

Although it is a requirement for those organizations that are located, for instance in the ‘Greek Cypriot communities’ to reserve 1 in every 20 jobs advertised to persons with disabilities, this is rarely implemented and their woes appear to be on the increase, a further testimony as to how weak the enforcement of laws that addresses the plight of the persons with disabilities in Cyprus are.

New and upcoming buildings, as well as tourist destination establishment are duty bound to ensure they make a provision for persons with disabilities in their design of buildings, but this is rarely followed by state authorities. Apparently, limited research has been undertaken towards the addressing of the issues that affect persons with disability in Cyprus. It is the intentions of this research proposal to therefore highlight these issues as they occur.

Research aims

  • To identify the issues that affects persons with disabilities in Cyprus
  • To assess the enforcement of the laws and regulations that addresses the plight of persons with disabilities in Cyprus
  • To determine the most appropriate methods that could be implemented to better address the problems faced by persons with disabilities in Cyprus

Methodology

It is the intention of this research proposal to link the issues of persons with disability from the standpoint of this group in Cyprus. The reason behind this is that the limitation in the availability of data that addresses this group in Cyprus makes it all the more reason why these problems should be explored to ensure that this group doe not become increasingly vulnerable to discrimination from any quarters.

As such, this research proposal has recommended a number of methods that would be deemed worth exploring for this research. First, a review of the relevant literature to the subject matter would enable the researcher to have a better insight into the issues under scrutiny.

Furthermore, it is also the best way through which the gaps that have not been addressed by previous researchers into the same area could be filled. A review of the literature of others also assists a researcher to know the areas that they should confine themselves to.

Another method for the establishment of the issues of this research would be an analysis of the records of the government regarding the plight of persons with disability. Usually, a census is normally undertaken every ten years, and the problems that are usually faced by person with disabilities are without doubt normally tackled on these occasions.

As such these government records would prove valuable in this regard. Seeing that individual organizations that take care of the person with disabilities in Cyprus also undertake their own assessment of the problems that are usually faced by the group, it shall be the intention of this research therefore, to administer written questionnaires and interviews to selected organization, to further shed light on these issues.

In addition, civil organizations that highlight the plight of persons with disabilities shall also be interviewed. This will be accomplished by the use of qualitative questions sent to the respective organizations via postal services. The key stakeholders that are concerned with the plight of persons with disabilities such as the civil societies and the home affairs ministries will also be interviewed. To this end, purposive sampling shall be done, meaning that data shall only be collected once for this group, and it shall only be used for the research at hand.

Project management

This research proposal shall be restricted to one employee, besides the principal investigator, and is estimated to run for a period of 6 months. In addition, the research work shall also be scrutinized by the research ethic commit of the university. Furthermore, this research proposal has already been subjected to a scrutiny of the said ethical committee, for review prior to submission

Research timetable

The research project has been proposed to be completed within a period of 6 months from the date of commencement, which is from January to July. Though such a period could be shorter in comparison to other projects in academia worth comparing with, nevertheless it is lengthy, based on the experience of the researcher.

Month Activity
January Review of literature
February -Review of literature (continued)
– Preparation and sending of postal enquiries
March -Assessment of responses of postal enquiries
– identification of sector player for interview
– preparations and presentation of questionnaires
April – interviewing of sector players
– administering of questionnaires
– assessment of progress
May – data analysis
June – draft report preparation
– review of draft report
July – final report writing

Additional resources requested

Aside form labor, most of the resources of the project shall be dedicated to postal enquiry services, and drafting of questionnaires, mail, and travel allowance. Seeing that the research shall only be administered by two personnel, the number of interviews shall be restricted to a maximum of 8, with both the principal researcher and the assistance handling a total of four. Postal enquiries shall be to a maximum of 18, while 50 questionnaires shall be administered.

Budget

Item/activity Amount (in dollars )
Questionnaires preparation 500
Mail submission 500
Interviews cost 500
Travel expenses 1500
Allowances to assistance 7000
Allowances to researcher 10,000
Printing, photocopy and binding costs 500
miscellaneous 2000
Total 22,500

Bibliography

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  2. Aggelides, P, 2004, “Moving towards inclusive education n Cyprus? International journal of inclusive education, Vol 8, No.4, pp. 407-422.
  3. Albrecht, G, 2005, Encyclopedia of disability. California: Thousand Oaks.
  4. Barnes, C, 1996, Disability and the myth of the independent researcher, Disability & society, Vol 11, pp. 107-110.
  5. Barnes, C, 1996, Theories of disability and the oppression of disabled people in western society, in: L. Barton (Ed.) Disability and Society. Emerging Issues and Insights. Harlow: Longman.
  6. Barnes, C, 1997, A legacy of oppression: a history of disability in western culture, in: L. Barton and M. Oliver (Eds) Disability studies: past, present and future. Leeds: The Disability Press.
  7. Bowe, F, 1978, Handicapping America: barriers to disabled people. New York: Harper & Row.
  8. Capra, F, 1996, The web of life. London: Harper Collins. Cyprus Republic (1999) Education of Children with Special Needs Act N.113 (I)/1999, 338-350.
  9. Finkelstein, V & Stuart, O, 1996, Developing new services’. In Hales, G. (ed.) Beyond disability: towards an enabling society. London: Sage.
  10. Ingstad, B & Whyte, S, 1995, Disability and Culture. Berkley: University of California Press.
  11. Johnstone, D, 2001, An introduction to disability studies, 2001, Oxford; Oxford University Press.
  12. Oliver, M, 1996, Understanding disability: from theory to practice. London: Macmillan.
  13. Oliver, M, 1997, The politics of disablement. London: St. Martin’s Press.
  14. Phtiaka, H, 1999, Disability, human rights and education in Cyprus, in: F. Armstrong and L. Barton (Eds) Disability, Human Rights and Education: Cross-cultural perspectives. London: Open University Press.
  15. Priestley, M, 1998, Constructions and creations: idealism, materialism and disability theory. Disability & society, Vol 13, pp. 75-94.
  16. Spyrou, S, 2002, ‘Images of the “Other”: The “Turk” in Greek Cypriot Children’s imaginations’, Race, Ethnicity and Education, Vol 5, No.3, pp. 255-272
  17. Thomas, G, Walker, D & Webb, J, 1998, The Making of the Inclusive School. London: Routledge.
  18. Wehmeyer, M. L, 1998, “Self-determination and individuality with significance to disabilities: Examining meanings and misinterpretations”, Journal of the Association for People with Severe Handicaps, VoL 23, No. 5.
  19. Wonacott, M, 2002, “Vocational Rehabilitation”, Trends and issues alert, Vol 31 No. 2.
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