The disabled are people too


Tijn Touber | June 2004 issue
WHO? Erzsébet Szekeres WHAT? Alliance Industrial Union, providing care, training and housing for the disabled WHERE? Hungary WHEN? 1982 WHY? Disabled people deserve economic opportunity and maximum of independence
When Erzsébet Szekeres went in search of the best possible care for her disabled son Tibor, who was born in 1976, she ran up against an heartless bureaucracy. In Hungary, the disabled are usually considered a ‘burden’, and kept out of the public eye as much as possible. Most cannot gain access to public transportation or public buildings.
When Tibor turned six, Szekeres realised that there was also no school for her son , nor a job or a home when he grew older. She realised she needed to stand up for the rights of Tibor and other disabled Hungarians. She formed a network for parents of disabled children.
Szekeres’ approach was fundamentally different from that of the Hungarian government. She didn’t focus on solving the individual problems of the disabled, but on an overall improvement of their quality of life. She organised training programs that would allow disabled people to develop skills and gain work experience. She also set up a housing network that would offer them as much independence as they could manage. Szekeres found the optimal group housing model: one disabled person and two others per unit. The latter could be attendants, friends or relatives.
She draws on all her powers of persuasion every day to convince architects, civil servants, parents and social workers that it doesn’t help the disabled to institutionalise them. Only one thing counts for Szekeres: providing disabled people with as much freedom and independence as possible.

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