On Thursday the 17th May 2018, Kultura Liberalna held a debate on disability politics in Poland, asking what disabled people actually require and how we can avoid serious issues becoming party political playthings in the battle for the ballot box.
Disabled people and their families have now been protesting in the Sejm for about a month. Throughout this period, government politicians have tried to speak to the protesters and have expressed understanding only to then accuse them of a lack of desire to enter into discussions or even of exploiting their own children. Minister Elżbieta Rafalska went as far as to sign a memo of understanding with disabled groups, however, not with those who have been protesting in the corridors of the Sejm.
Meanwhile, the opposition has called upon the government to fulfil the protesters’ demands, has supported the organisation of press conferences, engaged prominent figures, appealed to the media and accused the government of a lack of empathy.
All of which is, of course, a complete reversal of the roles played some years ago during the period of the PO-PSL government. At that time, it was PiS representatives who were handing out sandwiches, supporting, inviting, appealing and making accusations.
And, it doesn’t appear to be the case that the protesters are asking for all that much, with them merely requesting a 500 zł [c. €115] allowance for families looking after disabled children, who, in time, will become adults with disabilities. Yet, even if the protesters’ demands were to be fulfilled, would that be the end of the matter or would we then see the next round of protests in the Sejm in one or two years’ time? What support does the Polish state currently provide for disabled people and their carers and what would actually be needed in the long-term? What can Poland learn from the experience of other states? And, what needs to be done in order to avoid disability benefits becoming an object of party political rivalries and the banal fight for votes? What does Poland, as a society, need to do to fulfil its responsibility towards people with disabilities?
To find out more, either watch the Polish footage at the top of the page or take a look at our media section to see how to keep up-to-date with the release of English-language media material relating to this event.
Bernadeta Krynicka is a Sejm representative for Prawo i Sprawiedliwość
Joanna Scheuring-Wielgus is an independent representative in the Sejm and a former member of Nowoczesna
Henryk Wujec is a former politician and secretary of state in the Ministry of Agriculture, who, most recently, worked as a social adviser for President Bronisław Komorowski
Łukasz Pawłowski is a political columnist and the secretary of Kultura Liberalna’s editorial team
A full recording of the Polish-language live stream can be found at the top of the page and English-language video highlights of this discussion will be created and posted here in the weeks following the debate.
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This debate forms part of Time to Talk‘s Understanding the Populist Turn: The Ex-Debates series and was supported by a grant from the Open Society Foundation Institute in cooperation with the OSIFE of the Open Society Foundations.
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