Unbelievable:”This is Marios” – Alone student with cerebral palsy due to lack of funding – Cry for help

Marios, a high school student who suffers, among other things, from spastic diplegia cerebral palsy, is fighting alongside his family for a better quality of education, as three weeks after the start of the school year, the Ministry of Education has not secured a school escort due to a lack of funding.

Source: To Thema Online

“They tied a child’s wheelchair with a rope” – Serious allegations before the Parliament

The strong concern and anxiety have been raised regarding what was heard in front of the Parliament, concerning the way and means of transporting children with disabilities. There were reports of a disabled wheelchair being tied with a rope inside a bus that was transporting students to and from school. Furthermore, the absence of clear legislation was presented as the perfect excuse for government services to justify the unjustifiable.

The Human Rights Committee, in response to a letter from Kostas Groutidis in which he explained the ordeal his son went through to attend school trips with his classmates during the previous school year, opened the issue of violations against children with disabilities within school units.

Mr. Groutidis mentioned in his letter that during the first school trip of the previous school year, the children were transported by a bus with only one seat for a wheelchair, but there were two children, resulting in his son being tied incorrectly and, during a sudden stop, falling off the seat. As for the second school trip, Mr. Groutidis did not allow his child to board the bus, as there was no room for two children, ultimately transporting him to the excursion location himself. A location that was not accessible.

The problems with the transportation of children with disabilities have also been highlighted by the President of the Association “Agalia Elpida,” Youla Pitsiali, who stated that this issue should have been discussed for years. She explained that the first violation against these children is the violation of their right to access education since, as she pointed out, these children are subjected to an evaluation by third parties to decide, without the children’s and their families’ input, whether they should be placed in mainstream classes or not. “They prohibit access to the classrooms, and we let it happen because there is no legislation. Then parents are discouraged from sending their children to school because they are told that they will be mocked, that there are no examination essays, and we let them be bullied.”

Mr. Augustinos expressed his dismay at the lack of legislation to address these specific issues and called on the Parliament to take action, emphasizing that it is time for decisions to be made and initiatives to be taken.

On her part, the President of the Association “Agalia Elpida,” Youla Pitsiali, in her statement, mentioned that this issue should have been discussed for years. She explained that the first violation against these children is their exclusion from education since, as she pointed out, these children are subjected to evaluations by third parties to decide, without the children’s and their families’ input, whether they should be placed in mainstream classes or not. “They prohibit access to the classrooms, and we let it happen because there is no legislation. Then parents are discouraged from sending their children to school because they are told that they will be mocked, that there are no examination essays, and we let them be bullied.”

Regarding the issues with buses, Ms. Pitsiali noted that it has been a problem for years, and in 2017, with the initiative of the then-president of the Federation of Parents of Municipal Education, Morfaki Solomonides, a program for accessible buses was implemented because there were no buses to meet the needs, and parents had to pay. As she pointed out, the company that won the bid stated that it was at the disposal of the schools to provide buses for children with disabilities for two years, during which the pilot program was implemented, and there were no major problems and significant benefits were realized. “All students were transported together in large buses. We don’t want the children to be transported in small buses but in large ones. The program was stopped, and it didn’t proceed. The Ministry of Education should tell us why it was stopped. For five years now, we have been saying that there should be legislation for inclusive education.”

Taking the floor, the President of the Cyprus Confederation of Organizations of the Disabled (CCOD), Christakis Nicolaides, noted that they have submitted a memorandum regarding the inequalities faced by children with disabilities in all areas. He emphasized that there are laws and regulations for mass transportation, both public and private, that must be accessible. “The specifications exist, and there are EU specifications. Refusing to accept that there is a problem and that there are ways to solve it will not help. From July until now, we have had 70 complaints. There was a case where a child was not granted a ramp to enter his home, and the Court ruled in favor of the child. There are complaints about the transportation of children; in Paphos, they left children with autism at school and did not take them on the excursion.”

The Response of the Ministry of Transportation

In response to what Mr. Groutidis reported, Mr. Andreas Nikiforou, the Head of the Directorate of Public Passenger Transport and Senior Officer of Public Transport at the Ministry of Transportation, emphasized that it was the first time he had heard about what Mr. Groutidis mentioned. He clarified that this was a school trip and not public transportation. He stated, “We are talking about a private company that has a contract with the school and the principal. Understanding that the vehicle was legal, it had passed the MOT (Motor Vehicle Inspection). The vehicle was suitable, but it did not have an extra seat for the second wheelchair.”

Mr. Nikiforou pointed out that during the contract negotiation, the school’s management should have requested a vehicle with a second seat or asked for a second vehicle. He also emphasized that it was the responsibility of the school’s management to document the needs. He further mentioned a meeting that took place at the Ministry of Transportation the previous week, during which it was decided to create a list of essential safety documents that companies must have for buses.

Statements from Educators and Parents

Taking the floor, Mr. Dimitris Taliadoros, the President of OELMEK (Secondary Education Teachers’ Federation), highlighted that requests for transportation services are made by the school’s management at the beginning of the school year, taking into account the needs of each unit. He noted that there are special buses for excursions. Regarding the responsibility of school administrations, Mr. Taliadoros pointed out that they do not have the specifications for vehicles; only the companies do, and they provide quotations.

“In the past, the police used to conduct inspections, but now the responsibility lies with the schools. What do the schools check? Whether the vehicles have permits, have passed inspections, and are safe.”

On her part, Ms. Myria Vasileiou, the President of POED (Pan-Cyprian Parents’ Association), suggested that at the beginning of the school year, contacts are made with bus companies to find the best solution and that the company is informed if there are children with disabilities. Regarding specifications and criteria, her response was emphatic.

“Our diplomas say ‘teacher,’ not ‘engineer’ or ‘police officer.’ It is not our responsibility to inspect vehicles; we do not have the knowledge.”

In his statement, Mr. Loizos Konstantinou, the President of the Federation of Parents of Secondary Education, noted that their position is firm. “The right to education is equal for all children, and the state should provide it.”

Regarding buses, Mr. Konstantinou emphasized the need to create a registry for school buses to ensure order. He also stressed the importance of creating the list immediately, so schools know what to request from the companies.

Source: Reporter

The Municipality of Ayia Napa provides specific benefits to persons with disabilities (PWD).

The Municipality of Ayia Napa will provide specific benefits for people with disabilities (PWD), including tax discounts, free admission to the Sea Museum, and free parking, as announced on Monday by Mayor Christos Zannettou during his speech at the presentation of the project “Accessible Nature and Culture – Sustainable Tourism – In Heritage.”

The Mayor stated that the event “marks the culmination of an almost five-year journey, involving discussions with partners, the preparation of proposals, and their submission.” The collaboration between the Municipality of Ayia Napa and the Municipality of Rethymno, he noted, “is a continuation of a long-standing friendship, as the two municipalities have been twinned since 1996, and we have cooperated on various programs.”

He added that “the project ‘Ayia Napa – Rethymno: Universally Accessible Cities’ was the opportunity for us to get to know each other and collaborate with the National Confederation of Persons with Disabilities, and its contribution to our joint effort was crucial, as it provided the expertise and support for the plans of the three municipalities. Additionally, we worked together with the Municipality of Sotira at the beginning of the project, and today we are preparing to follow a common path within the framework of the Local Government Reform.”

As Mr. Zannettou explained, “the project ‘Accessible Nature and Culture – Sustainable Tourism – In Heritage’ prompted us to rethink and redesign the urban space with new priorities and vision. With the completion of the project, we reach the end of a journey that will serve as a starting point for similar efforts to expand the intervention areas to make Ayia Napa truly universally accessible.”

“We have taken significant steps to expand the infrastructure and provisions of the existing project within the framework of our capabilities and the challenging economic conditions affecting both Greece and Cyprus. The Municipality of Ayia Napa has made accessibility and the social inclusion of persons with disabilities a priority, and our strategic planning includes actions related to the subject, such as the ‘Universally Accessible and Environmental Civic Center’ and the ‘Construction of a Model Autism Center in Ammochostos,'” he continued.

Mr. Zannettou emphasized that “the Municipality’s goal is to attract a diverse tourist group – persons with disabilities – who, until now, have not been targeted because they cannot be accommodated by the existing infrastructure and services. They prefer off-season trips. The overall turnover of this market is over 80 billion euros per year,” he said, adding that “in 2009, arrivals of persons with disabilities at Larnaca Airport reached 50,000. We aspire to further increase this number, with Ayia Napa hosting a significant percentage of visitors with disabilities.”

Referring to the project, Mr. Zannettou stated, “The project has a budget of €1,200,810.00, with the amounts allocated as follows: €354,100.00 for the Municipality of Ayia Napa, €510,800.00 for the Municipality of Rethymno, €80,450.00 for the Municipality of Sotira, and €255,460.00 for the National Confederation of Persons with Disabilities.”

The Municipality of Ayia Napa noted that it “has absorbed 100% of the amount allocated to its projects, and additional resources were used to further improve the proposed actions to achieve a better and enhanced result. However, due to natural and economic constraints, the Municipality is not yet fully and completely accessible, but we are committed to continuing to expand and improve the infrastructure to make Ayia Napa accessible to everyone.”

Christos Zannettou also announced that “the Municipal Council of Ayia Napa has decided to grant specific benefits to persons with disabilities, including tax discounts, free entry to the Sea Museum, and free parking, which will be announced in the coming days.”

The Municipality of Ayia Napa noted that it “has absorbed 100% of the amount allocated to its projects, and additional resources were used to further improve the proposed actions to achieve a better and enhanced result. However, due to natural and economic constraints, the Municipality is not yet fully and completely accessible, but we are committed to continuing to expand and improve the infrastructure to make Ayia Napa accessible to everyone.”

Furthermore, a system for the access of individuals with visual impairments to a beach in the Municipality of Ayia Napa was installed, and improvements were made to the accessibility for individuals with visual and hearing impairments at the Municipal Museum “Thalassa.”

The presentation of the project followed, in which, among other things, accessibility infrastructure was provided at the “Makronissos” beach, including the construction of accessible pathways and the purchase of beach wheelchairs, as well as the construction of accessible restrooms and showers for persons with disabilities. A comprehensive renovation and expansion of the beach’s standard restrooms was also carried out using the same resources. Additionally, accessibility infrastructure was provided at the “Nissi” beach, including designated parking spaces for persons with disabilities and accessible signage.

Furthermore, a system for the access of individuals with visual impairments was installed at a beach in the Municipality of Ayia Napa, and improvements were made to the accessibility for individuals with visual and hearing impairments at the Municipal Museum “Thalassa.”

Source: Reporter

The intervention of the Multiple Sclerosis Association and OSAC on the issue of Despina Rousou.

The Pan-Cypriot Multiple Sclerosis Association, in its statement, “condemns the removal of the journalist from the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation, Despina Rousou,” from her duties, “a decision that was taken arbitrarily and without respect and dignity.”

The Pan-Cypriot Multiple Sclerosis Association also expresses “strong dissatisfaction and protest against the heartless and unjust treatment of a person with a disability and calls for the immediate intervention and support of the relevant authorities regarding this poor treatment,” as stated, by the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation (RIK).

The Pan-Cypriot Multiple Sclerosis Association hopes for “the elimination of discrimination against people with disabilities.”

It also states that “unfortunately, there are still individuals and services that infringe upon the rights of persons with disabilities, who, despite their health problems, continue to struggle and advocate for their right to work.”

“Instead of being rewarded for their resilience, they are being degraded in this way,” concludes the Pan-Cypriot Multiple Sclerosis Association.

The letter from the Pan-Cypriot Multiple Sclerosis Association regarding Despina Rousou:

“On behalf of the Federation of Cyprus Patient Associations (OSAK), we express our strong protest and indignation at the unacceptable behavior and undignified treatment that Mrs. Despina Rousou has experienced.

Mrs. Rousou is a person with chronic illness and disabilities, who has been employed at RIK for many years, a member of the Executive Committee of OSAK, and has been an active volunteer with significant contributions to the patient movement for many years.

Despite facing multiple health problems and disabilities, Mrs. Rousou has been working with unparalleled integrity and dedication in her duties for several decades (please note that according to our information, she has one of the lowest sick leave records at RIK), without ever invoking her illness or disability to seek any favorable treatment.

Mrs. Rousou serves as a shining example to all of us and should receive the support and encouragement of the management of the Foundation to enable her to work and perform her duties, rather than being subjected to the “disrespectful and degrading behavior” as noted in the report by the Commissioner for Administration, Mrs. Maria Stylianou Lottides.

Unfortunately, the consequences for her health resulting from the above are serious, and due to the exacerbation of her illness, she is unable to work and is hospitalized.

The unfavorable treatment she received from the management of RIK and the unacceptable practices are condemnable, and for this reason, we urge you to take immediate action and restore order and respect for the rights of Ms. Rousou.

We call on the President of the Board of Directors of RIK to restore order and respect for human rights, both for Ms. Rousou and for all employees in general at the state channel, which should promote respect for human rights through the decisions of its management and serve as an example to be followed in our country.”

Source: Φilenews

Inclusion Program for Children with Hearing Loss in Middle and Technical Education

Subject: Integration Program for Children with Hearing Loss in Secondary and Technical Education

The education of children with hearing loss in general education has been legally safeguarded through the enactment and implementation of Law 113(I)/99 “On the Education and Training of Children with Special Needs of 1999,’ as well as the accompanying regulations.”

The inclusion of these children in General Secondary and Technical and Vocational Education and Training is working very successfully. This is evident from their entry into Higher Education Institutions in Cyprus and elsewhere. To continue and enhance the effective education of children with hearing loss, the following should be considered:

1. Staff Training

Every school year, seminars are held with the aim of training educators involved in the inclusion program for children with hearing loss. Please ensure that all relevant individuals attend these seminars. Additionally, short seminars or sample lessons may be organized at schools in consultation with the Coordinator/Link Worker for Hearing Impairment.

2. Implementation of Individual Educational Plans (IEPs)

With the start of the school year, the school is obliged to implement the Individual Program of each child, as approved by the District Committee for Special Education and Training (EEAEAT) (accommodations, support hours, exemptions, and withdrawal from classes). It has been observed that in some schools, the start of support is delayed. The support program must be implemented from the first day of the school’s operation and should be included in the temporary school schedule. The responsibility for ensuring the adherence and implementation of the Individual Program lies with the school’s Assistant Director in charge of Special Education.

3. Exemptions or Withdrawal from Classes

To fulfill support hours, children are exempted from and withdrawn from specific classes as specified in their Individual Program, which is sent out in the early days of the school year after approval by the EEAEAT. In cases where the IEP is not functioning as approved, the Coordinator/Link Worker for Hearing Impairment should be informed.

4. Educators

The role of the educator is particularly crucial for the smooth psychological, academic, and social development of children with hearing loss. Therefore, educators should be willing to engage, be sensitive, and be informed about or have attended seminars related to the education of children with hearing loss. Additionally, their physical characteristics should contribute to better communication with the student (e.g., natural speech rate, clear articulation). Educators who take on the above responsibility should be aware that anything assigned to them becomes obligatory, such as following specific guidelines (e.g., simplifying the curriculum language, instructional adaptations, writing semester reports). Support lessons should be conducted by the teachers of the department, as this contributes to better preparation of the child and the development of better relationships between them.

5. Number of Children in the Class with Children with Hearing Loss

The number of students in the class where a child with hearing loss is enrolled should be significantly smaller than in other classes of the same grade (Article 12, 2 (d) (ii) of the Law on the Education and Training of Children with Special Needs of 1999), as it serves important educational purposes. It is advisable to avoid placing children with behavioral problems or ADHD in the same class.

6. Examination Accommodations (Tests and Final Examinations)

Children with hearing loss are entitled to examination accommodations, both in tests and final examinations (e.g., additional time, simplified language in test questions, bearing in mind that this does not dictate the answer, exemption from the listening part in foreign languages). The accommodations for each child are specified in the decision of the District Committee for Special Education and Training (EEAEAT) sent to the school.

7. Technical Infrastructure

One of the fundamental requirements for the successful inclusion of children with hearing loss is the provision of an environment free from noise and disruptive sounds. Therefore, the classroom and the individual support room should be located away from sources of noise (e.g., sports fields, cafeteria, music room), soundproofed (e.g., with a plastic floor, heavy curtains), and adequately equipped (e.g., interactive whiteboard, projector).

8. Adaptation of the Curriculum

Children with hearing loss require adaptations to the curriculum to meet their specific educational needs. This includes more instructional adjustments from educators for better communication, identifying key points for exams, linguistic adaptation of the curriculum in support lessons, and so on.

Source: Παιδεία news

Global Weightlifting Championship in Dubai!

Maria Markou secured the 6th place in the World Bench Press Weightlifting Championship held in Dubai!

In detail, her post:

“6th place at the World Para Powerlifting Championships in Dubai – World Para Powerlifting – World Championships 2023 with 100 kilograms, which also sets a new Cypriot record in the -61 kilograms category.”

“Despite being in a tough day, I managed to secure my spot in the list for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games with a lift of 100 kilograms. I am not satisfied with my performance yesterday, however, that competition now belongs to the past, and I remain committed to my ultimate goal, securing a place in the Paralympics.”

“I would like to extend special thanks to my coach Dimitris Ioannidis, my companion Christina Kalli, and the entire team who stood by my side in this competition. I also want to thank everyone for your support, and I promise that with harder work and dedication, greater successes will come.”

Source: Super Sports FM

Six months in waiting for the disabled

Without the necessary means to lead a more normal life, people with disabilities are left for months. Some, who are even in specialized centers, complete the first stage of their rehabilitation but are unable to return to their homes, because the competent state department needs, in the best case scenario, six months to approve their application for the appropriate aids.

There are many examples, as stated to ‘Ph’ by the President of the Cyprus Paraplegic Organization, Dimitris Lambrianidis, supporting that “the plan for technical means, of the Department of Social Integration of Persons with Disabilities, is currently the plan with the most significant delays. The waiting time reaches six months, the department receives about 200 applications each month, and the responsible officials cannot respond quickly or within a reasonable timeframe to their obligations towards citizens due to understaffing.”

The applications submitted concern “individuals who need, for example, wheelchairs for bathing, specialized cushions for pressure sore prevention, mattresses for bedsores, electrically powered beds, etc. For a person with a disability, to secure a good quality of life under the circumstances, these aids are necessary, and certainly their cost is such that not anyone can afford them out of their own pocket. For people with disabilities, these are the tools that allow them to live in their own homes and not somewhere else.”

As OPAK, he added, ‘We are very well aware of the current situation. Recently, a case came to light involving a child with cancer who applied to secure such assistance, yet unfortunately, the child’s request was not approved. Not even such incidents seem to move certain technocrats in certain Ministries. Proper staffing of government departments responsible for serving citizens must be a priority for the Government.’

“For this reason,” said Mr. Lambrianides, “the relevant department of the Ministry of Social Welfare needs personnel reinforcement to be able to cope. And we are not talking about highly paid public servants. It is necessary to hire low-paid individuals who will take on the challenging task of evaluating and processing applications from people with disabilities.”

“I find it unacceptable that every citizen is forced to go to the media, to voice their problem and their hardship, in order for us to rush to provide them with what they need,” said Mr. Lambrianides and added, “We have once again been informed that the request of the Ministry of Social Welfare for approval of positions has been rejected. This means that the applications of individuals in need of these technical aids will continue to pile up every six months. We expect from the Government to send a message to those who handle certain matters, that priority must be given wherever the responsibility involves health, social integration, and the well-being of citizens. Also, it is unfair to demonize government departments that cannot efficiently carry out their tasks quickly due to being understaffed, with the responsibility lying with other departments.”

Source: Φilenews

Deputy Minister of Welfare: Goal is Dignified Living in Shelters and Institutions

The goal of the Deputy Ministry of Social Welfare is to support all shelters and institutions in providing services that promote dignified living through collaborations, said Deputy Minister of Social Welfare, Marilena Evaggelou, during her visit to the ‘Archangel Michael’ Shelter in Kaimakli on Friday.

In statements during the visit, the Deputy Minister mentioned that this visit is part of broader visits she conducts along with her collaborators to institutions, shelters for the elderly, and shelters for people with disabilities. The purpose is to witness firsthand the conditions under which these individuals live and the services provided to them.

Subsequently, she mentioned that a discussion will follow on the issues and challenges faced, ‘in order to provide those solutions and the support and assistance from the state, so that the services that should be provided to elderly individuals or people with disabilities can be offered.’

“I am pleased to observe that here, there is a very good provision of services both for elderly individuals and for people with disabilities. A day center and 24-hour care are operational,” she mentioned about the ‘Archangel Michael’ Shelter in Kaimakli, after a guided tour of the Center’s facilities, where the Deputy Minister engaged in conversations with the individuals residing or receiving services there.

“Because negative aspects are often highlighted, it’s good to acknowledge the positives as well. There are shelters, there are institutions that provide beyond the essentials,” she mentioned, adding that quality services are provided, which offer ‘that livelihood to those being served, constituting the dignified living they should have.”

The goal of the Deputy Ministry of Social Welfare, she noted, “is to assist all shelters and institutions in providing those services that serve dignified living. We will continue these efforts through collaborations, with NGOs, local authorities, and the Church. We are moving in this direction, aiming to continue seeking the maximum possible provision of services to all those being served.”

Source: Φilenews

The deal is sealed: From September, the ‘Health’ Polyclinic joins the GHS.

Starting from September, the ‘Ygeia’ Polyclinic will join the GHS (General Health System) – How private Diagnostic and Therapeutic Centers (DTCs) will assist in the decongestion of public hospitals – Andreas Papakonstantinou elaborates on the plan being initiated by the GHS in the Off The Record Podcast.

The agreement for the integration of the ‘Ygeia’ Polyclinic into the GHS (General Health System) has been definitively sealed, and starting from September, beneficiaries of the System will have access to inpatient health care services and the First Aid Department of the private hospital.

Specifically, Andreas Papakonstantinou, the Director of the Health Insurance Organization (HIO), revealed in the Off The Record Podcast by Cyprus Times that HIO has reached an agreement with the ‘Ygeia’ Polyclinic. He also clarified that the signatures have not yet been formalized, but this is now a procedural matter.

Furthermore, he explained that based on the planning, the private hospital will commence providing its services from September 1st, or if there’s any delay, it will occur 15 days later, in mid-September.

Mr. Papakonstantinou also indicated that the First Aid Department of the ‘Ygeia’ Polyclinic will also be integrated into the GHS.

How Private TAEK (Emergency Admission Units) Will Help in Decongesting Public Hospitals

Moving forward, Mr. Papakonstantinou discussed the plan initiated by HIO to decongest the TAEK units of public hospitals, allowing for emergency cases to also be redirected to private hospitals.

“This is why we proceeded with the integration of ‘Ygeia’,” he explained, further adding that “Mediterranean Hospital is already operating within the GHS and offering First Aid services. We will also include Apollonion Hospital (its TAEK unit will join the System in September), Evangelismos in Paphos, and St. Raphael in Larnaca. A mechanism will be established where the patient can choose any TAEK unit.”

He also pointed out that each TAEK unit, due to its specific payment arrangement, will be required to maintain both beds and the medical team necessary to handle these cases. In cases where a TAEK unit cannot attend to a certain incident, it will be accountable to the Organization – as records are kept – and an instruction will be provided to refer the case to specific TAEK units. “There will be these safety networks,” emphasized Mr. Papakonstantinou.”

Source: Cyprus Times

Bronze for Pelendritou in the 50m freestyle at the World Championships.

Carolina Pelendritou secured the third place in the 50m freestyle at the World Para Swimming Championship (in the S11 category) held in Manchester on Monday.

It is her 12th medal and the first bronze she has won in a World Championship, 21 years after her first participation.

Pelendritou, who had the misfortune of hitting the lane divider, finished with a time of 30.28 and came behind China’s Ma Jia (29.74) and Dutch swimmer Bruinsma Liesette (30.07).

For the 36-year-old swimmer, this is her 12th medal in a World Championship since her debut in 2002. It is her first bronze, as she previously secured nine gold and two silver medals in the last ten competitions.

This is her third medal in 2023, as she has already stood atop the podium twice in the IDM Berlin Meeting (50m freestyle, 50m breaststroke).

On Wednesday (August 2nd), Carolina Pelendritou will have the opportunity to compete for another distinction as she participates in the 100m breaststroke in the SB11 category.”

Source: Cyprus Times