The life of the disabled
“Yiannis is severely autistic, does not talk and can’t remain alone, not even for five minutes,” his mother, Ada Stamatatou, told Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in a podcast on the occasion of the International Day of Disabled Persons.
In their 30-minute dialogue, another reality was revealed: the extremely demanding daily life of a mother in her situation, facing dozens of problems.
This discussion was significant. It was a crash course in the world of “people with disabilities,” through the solid remarks of a woman who does not feel sorry for herself, or issue demands through an organized union, but rather describes the problems she has faced for a period stretching back two decades: the lack of support from the state, bureaucracy and the lack of access to a normal life for the disabled.
“And what about Yiannis’ future?” the prime minister asks. “His future is that he’ll end up in a supported living center,” his mother replies. That is a home for autistic children and adults from Monday to Friday, and then, at the weekend, if their parents are alive or other relatives who can take them in, they stay with their family.
A few days ago, a 25-year-old man was beaten to death at a disability center in Thessaloniki (an investigation has been launched into the circumstances of his death). This incident made the news because the man died.
But there are dozens of other incidents, which occur the other 364 days of the year, that remain invisible. If diversity and inclusion entail an educational process and require time, strict checks on those centers and the payment of benefits are the responsibility of the state. The state should also say: “You receive a benefit. What do you do with it? Where is this child? In what conditions does he/she live? Where is he/she? Where does he/she sleep? These questions were raised by Stamatatou herself in the discussion.
The road is long and the work is hard in order before we reach a point where we can say that “disabled children give us strength,” and mean it, as the tireless president of Cerebral Palsy Greece, Daphne Economou, stated in an interview with Kathimerini in the past.
But as long as these stories are shared and heard, as long as the disabled can move around freely and survive in public spaces and the state proves in practice that it doesn’t just remember the disabled once a year, on December 3, the road will open up. It will become and remain visible.