BEIRUT: Lebanon is seeking to improve services provided for people with special needs and physical handicaps as part of a strategy aimed at facilitating their integration in the society and the workforce, officials told a conference marking International Day for Persons with Disabilities Wednesday.
Nawaf Kabbara, representing Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas, said Lebanon introduced legislation on the rights of people with disabilities back in 2000, several years before the U.N. General Assembly approved the international convention for the disabled in 2007.
“Although Lebanon did not ratify the treaty which it had signed then, the government is almost totally bound by its provisions, which are largely reflected in the national legislation,” Kabbara said.
Kabbara unveiled plans to upgrade services offered to the disabled, including increasing availability of “assistance equipment” and improving programs to help integrate them in the society.
The representative of the Union of Lebanese NGOs assisting people with disabilities, Musa Sharafeddine, deplored inadequate services that deprive the disabled from a proper education and freedom of movement.
“There are shortcomings in facilitating the movement of the physically disabled, such as the absence of adequate transportation, infrastructure, roads and sidewalks,” Sharafeddine said.
He also called for a bigger involvement by the Education Ministry in helping disabled students integrate in public schools at a young age through the creation of in-house facilities.
The international day for the disabled was also marked by U.N. agencies, under the theme of Persons with Disabilities in Emergencies.
ESCWA’s Deputy Executive Secretary Nadim Khouri underlined that persons with disabilities were disproportionately affected by man-made conflicts or natural disasters, due to lack of preparedness and difficulties in evacuating.
Khouri noted that the disabled face a mortality rate that is two to four times higher than for the total population in times of crises.