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LEBANON: Disabled remain marginalised, study finds

BEIRUT, 15 January 2006 (IRIN) - Disabled people in Lebanon continue to be marginalised in terms of education and employment, according to a new report released on Saturday.

The study, entitled "Disability and Inclusion in Lebanon," was released by a grouping of NGOs devoted to issues concerning the disabled.

Participant organisations included the Youth Association of the Blind, the Lebanese Physically Handicapped Union, the Lebanese Down Syndrome Association and Save the Children Sweden.

"The lack of equal access to quality education has contributed to a situation where people with disabilities are often deprived of gaining basic knowledge and skills necessary to becoming full members of society," the report found.

Under Lebanese Law, all children with disabilities have the right to attend regular schools. But according to local social-development specialist Sahar Tabaja, “this law in not respected.”

"The majority of children with disabilities are in special care institutions, and private schools have a policy of automatically eliminating students with disabilities," said Tabaja, who works with the National Inclusion Project, launched by the NGOs in 2004 with the aim of improving quality of life for the disabled.

The report also criticises the lack of professionals in schools trained specifically to teach the disabled.

According to National Inclusion Project Manager Maha Damaj, only a handful of schools nationwide cater to pupils with special needs. "About 20 schools allow entry to children with disabilities, but it’s up to the parents and the children to adapt to the curriculum," she said.

In terms of employment, while both private- and public-sector companies are obliged to employ specified quotas of disabled workers, the positions available often come with low wages and without health and social benefits.

"They [the disabled] are often taken advantage of, and are forced to work for longer hours for smaller salaries," said Tabaja.

The study makes a number of recommendations, including the improvement of the role of government authorities on issues concerning the disabled and greater implementation of inclusion-based policies.

"Strengthening the role of the parents and supporting the role of NGOs, which often replace public institutions, are key to inclusion," said Tabaja.

She also pointed to the need for specialised support and information services, noting, "People with disabilities searching for employment have no access to resources or information to assist them."

Out of an estimated Lebanese population of 4.5 million, an estimated 10 percent have disabilities, according to a 1990 UNDP survey.

Theme (s): Education, Health & Nutrition,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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