Thursday, 28 February 2008

Election Rally with Disability Sector

Spain is in the throes of a general election campaign. Elections are on 9 March. As with previous elections the ONCE and its Foundation has organised rallies with the two main parties for them to present their policies to the disability community. Today we were supposed to hear the current incumbent José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero on behalf of the Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE), but he was unable to attend and the Minister of Work and Social Affairs, Jesús Caldera came instead, accompanied by secretaries of State Amparo Valcarce for Social Services, Families and Disability, and [?].

In addition to individuals attending in a private capacity, there is a considerable effort to ensure participation by everyone from the extensive ONCE “family” including the companies in the Fundosa Group. About twenty staff from Technosite attended. We hired a coach to take us there and back. The rally was held at the sports hall of the ONCE School in Madrid. National television and radio were in attendance.

View of the hall as Jesús Caldera addresses the audience

At the start of the meeting Mario García, president of Spain's leading disability organisation, CERMI, the Spanish Committee of Representatives of People with Disabilities reminded us of what happened the last time around, four years ago, when the day after the rally a series of bombs on suburban railways killed 191 people and injured many more, some of whom are now disabled.

Jesús Caldera gave a good speech outlining all that the outgoing administration has done for people with disabilities in Spain, including laws on sign language, accessibility and provision for people in situations of dependency. Whatever one's political sympathies, nobody can deny that the government has done rather more than most for people with disabilities in the space of just four years. He then went on to say what the party plans to do in the next legislature, although having done so much already they have a hard act to follow. The plans include bigger quotas for companies to employ people with disabilities, reform of the system for disability certification, and universal anti-discrimination legislation including discrimination on the grounds of disability. Next week there should be a rally with the leader of the conservative opposition party, Partido Popular.