Community Forum 2023 - UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Implementation in the municipalities

Speech Saphir Ben Dakon

As part of the Community Forum 2023, I gave a speech on the topic of "Barriers and their impact on the lives of people with disabilities". The speech was about visible and invisible barriers. The aim was to make these perceptible to the population as a whole and to show those responsible in the municipalities how they can take action by defining three basic attitudes that still prevent inclusion today and presenting the topic based on these widespread attitudes.

In order to also address the topic visually, I disappeared behind a visible barrier while listing the obstacles. This was then removed again when the solutions were explained. This made it possible to recognize the effect of inclusion and the importance of one's own scope for action.

Are you also interested in such an input? I look forward to hearing from you and hope you enjoy reading!

The picture shows the screen at the entrance to the event. The logo of the Canton of Zurich, Directorate of Justice of the Interior. The title of the event can also be read..Community Forum 2023 - UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Implementation in the municipalities

Community Forum 2023 - UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Implementation in the municipalities

Photographer: Samuel Schalch

Dear attendees

My name is Saphir Ben Dakon, I am 1.50 tall, have medium-length brown hair, brown eyes and eye-catching golden glasses with red rims.

My contribution is to highlight barriers and their impact on the lives of people with disabilities. Barriers go far beyond what we can immediately perceive. Many things remain invisible, inaudible or even untouchable if we do not deal with them. So in order for us to be able to talk about obstacles, their imperceptibility must be tangible. This requires all of us. My input is intended as an invitation to embark on this journey and thus to grasp the imperceptible. I would be delighted if you would follow it.

I imagine working in a community to be very exciting. I'm sure it takes everyone to manage the diverse range of tasks. In addition, you will certainly meet many different people and have to work together with a wide variety of departments and people while simultaneously meeting numerous demands. I imagine that this can be very stressful at times. Perhaps this is why you sometimes feel as if your work is not seen, as if your professional input is not sufficiently taken into account and your needs are not taken seriously.

I can well understand such feelings. All the people with disabilities I know feel the same way, including me. It's good that I can talk to you about this today, but unfortunately it doesn't break down any barriers. But we can practise breaking them down today. Dryly, so to speak. We'll take the obstacles literally, because I sometimes disappear behind them.

Shearing fence in front of Saphir Ben Dakon

"People with disabilities should be grateful that society and their communities do something for them."

When such an attitude prevails, people with disabilities are treated accordingly in personal interactions. This implies that the implementation of their concerns is a matter of welfare. As a result...

  • People with disabilities are belittled and a retreat into the private sphere takes place. Their concerns no longer reach the relevant bodies and their needs remain unrecognized.
  • Projects to promote inclusion are only conceived and implemented half-heartedly and without the involvement of people with disabilities. Wrong decisions are made and people with disabilities rightly complain, which in turn is interpreted negatively. These constant disputes cause psychological distress for many people.
  • It is assumed that only society "does" and that people with disabilities do not. This means that people with disabilities are not perceived as people who want to actively shape their lives and participate.

As a consequence;

  • no thought is given to barrier-free access to information,
  • or that people with disabilities also have to move around in public spaces and that these must be accessible without barriers
  • People are excluded from political decision-making processes because not only information is not barrier-free, but also venues.

Scherrengitter constantly a little further away from Saphir Ben Dakon

That's why it would be important

  • to address the issue of inclusion.
  • Enter into a dialog with people with disabilities in the communities and involve them in decision-making processes. Like all people in a community, they are also affected by changes.
  • Information about municipal life, including political decisions, should be accessible in analog and digital form.
  • Municipal buildings must be accessible and, where it is within the municipality's sphere of influence, public spaces must also be accessible.

So, we have already removed the first obstacles. But we know that there is still a lot to do when it comes to inclusion. That's why we'll continue right away.

"People with disabilities, and their inclusion, only cost money and don't add any value."

If such an attitude prevails, people with disabilities are treated as a cost factor. As a result:

  • The cheapest and not the most inclusive solutions are sought. Under certain circumstances, the "solution" neither removes nor shifts an obstacle.
  • The skills and potential of people with disabilities are not recognized and they are unable to contribute to their environment. Not even in your community
  • Approaches to implementing inclusion are not considered or at least not prioritized when adopting a budget.
  • The responsibility for the participation of fellow human beings is not recognized in the case of people with disabilities.

Scherrengitter constantly a little further away from Saphir Ben Dakon

These challenges can also be solved as follows:

  • Involve people with disabilities in the design of measures in their community from the outset.
  • Inform people with disabilities about the status of their concerns in the same way as everyone else, without barriers of course.
  • Prioritize the various measures together with people with disabilities from the community.
  • Realize that all measures cost money and that inclusion can also cost money.

That was already very exhausting again. Let's shed some light on one more attitude and then I'll hand over to the next speakers.

Shearing fence in front of Saphir Ben Dakon

"People with disabilities should live where they are cared for."

If such an attitude prevails, it is assumed that people with disabilities do not want to live independently in a community. As a result...

  • jobs in the municipality are not designed to be inclusive and interested people cannot apply.
  • Emergency assembly points are not barrier-free in terms of structural accessibility and accessibility of information.
  • If leisure events organized by the municipalities are not checked for accessibility and access for people with disabilities is made difficult or even impossible. This makes inclusion in the community more difficult and those responsible for important public services such as libraries or museums are not sensitized.
  • People have to leave their community when they become disabled, e.g. due to old age, because no accessible housing is promoted.
  • Institutions for housing and employment do not allow residents to lead a self-determined life.
  • People with disabilities remain invisible in the community.

There are solutions here too:

Scherrengitter steadily a little further away from Saphir Ben Dakon

  • Look at how jobs in the municipalities can be made accessible to people with disabilities. This way, people with disabilities also feel represented when they are represented in the administration.
  • To check the accessibility of emergency meeting points with people with disabilities.
  • Work together with associations and examine as a whole municipality whether local support services can be designed.
  • Assume that people with disabilities also want to use leisure activities and contribute to their accessibility within the scope of the municipality's possibilities.
  • To examine living in the community from the perspective of self-determination.

While I was speaking, you might have thought to yourself, "I already know that" or "We already do that". And that's exactly my point. You are already doing a lot of things that perhaps have not yet been done under the label of "inclusion". They are already helping to break down barriers. With your work, every day. And you have seen that we need you. Because without committed people in the communities, I as a person with disabilities cannot break down barriers. As people with disabilities, we cannot break down barriers. Not all of the obstacles mentioned above affect me personally. So I can say that without us, without society, we cannot achieve inclusion.

Today I stood alone on this stage. But you can see that this barrier is not that big. If we had stood on this stage together, we would have moved in such a way that there would have been room for everyone. At some point, I would have been visible to everyone, my imperceptibility would have become perceptible. It's the same with obstacles. They only seem big when you have to face them alone.

For logistical reasons, this is unfortunately not possible, but I like to imagine that after my input and beyond this event, we will stand, sit or lie on the stage together. Symbolically speaking, on the stage of life. You have power and can make a difference, because you as a person have the chance every day to remove the obstacles, brick by brick, alone and together with your community. If this is not possible, you always have the opportunity to meet someone at eye level, stand next to you and support you in dealing with the obstacles together.

At the beginning of my input, I asked you to accept my invitation to inclusion. In my closing words, I would like to brazenly ask you to do something again. Go ahead, get involved with the topic of inclusion. Discover exciting things. Share your thoughts and learn new things. Go further and tread new paths. Get started or keep going. Today. With this event. I would be delighted to meet you again in the future on our journey together.

Reporter:innen ohne Barrieren, Nicole Haas, reported on my input: You can find the article here.

The regional broadcaster TeleZ covered the event. You can find the report here.