Bethlehem, Saturday July 30, 2005, a workshop was held at the Peace Center in Bethlehem, on the rights of the handicapped in the Palestinian territories, laws which were approved the legislative council, and why they have not been implemented.

Several private and governmental organizations showed active presence and provided their suggestions and comments.

The following official institutions participated at the workshop;

– Ministry of Local Government, Bethlehem.

– Ministry of Interior, Bethlehem.

– Ministry of Labor, Bethlehem.

– Ministry of education, Bethlehem.

– Ministry of Social Affairs, Bethlehem

– Bethlehem Governor, Zuheir Manasrah. 

– PLC member, Bishara Daoud

Dozens of residents, residents with special needs and their parents, in addition to some institutions were present at the workshop and presented their ideas and complaints.  

Zuheir Manasrah, the Governor of Bethlehem District, Bishara Daoud, member of the Legislative Council among other officials presented the legal measures taken by the Palestinian Authority, and the problems which they encounter in implementing the laws regarding the disabled, and their rights.

Manasrah said that the ministry of Social Affairs should provide the Authority and his office with detailed reports on number of cases they are working with and the problems they face.

Manasrah stated that the ministry’s departments should find means of cooperation between them, the private rehabilitation centers and his office in order to guarantee that their demands and needs are officially presented to the Legislative Council in order to be discussed and approved.

“We have to find the appropriate means to guarantee this sort of cooperation”, Manasrah said, “We have serious problem of lack of cooperation and legal representation between the rehabilitation centers and P.A departments”.

Legislative Council member, Bishara Daoud, said that the council approved laws regarding the rights of the disabled, the rights of access to public facilities, and other laws regarding to rights of receiving their medical needs, education employment and other related issues.

“But these laws were not implemented, the P.A lacks the means to ensure the implantation of the law regarding the disabled residents”, Bishara said, “I believe they should be present in every session the council hold, as a means of pressure in order to guarantee that the authority actually follows the implementation of the laws”

Also, Bishara added the some institutions are using the disabled residents, and their cases for financial gains, and do not provide them with the needed aid, and that the P.A should practically activate the monitoring committee to ensure that the disabled are receiving what they need, and that the law is implemented.

IMEMC correspondent spoke at the workshop saying that the P.A, Ministry of Social affairs, and other departments are trying to avoid the blame, instead of cooperating in order to guarantee the implementation of the law, and provide the disable with their needed aid, in addition to providing them with job opportunities in order to become effective members of the society.

According to the law, each institution, ministry or department should employ residents with special need, the percentage of employees with special needs should be a minimum of 5%, in exchange for tax reduction, but the law was not implemented.

The law of Tax and Custom discounts is also not implemented in the Palestinian areas in spite the fact the law was approved by the Legislative Council since 1999. 

So far, public facilities are not structurally rehabilitated to guarantee easy access of the physically challenged residents; this also includes some schools, and other educational facilities.

Also, medical needs, especially expensive medicine and aiding tools are not provided by the ministry of health in the majority of the cases, and if such needs are provided in certain cases, they only cover a small percentage of the needed quantities.  

Handicapped residents, who use aiding tools in their daily, such as wheelchairs and other tools, have in the majority of the cases to buy what they need in spite of the fact the most of them are unemployed, and receive minimum financial aid from the authority which is not even sufficient to buy food.

Yet the questions which remain here is when will the laws will be implemented, when will the residents with special needs be able to have access to public and governmental facilities including governmental health care centers, when they will be able to be treated as equal members of the society, practice their rights and conduct their duties as any member of the society.