Today (April 20), the Seoul Nuri Festival was held to celebrate the Day of the Disabled. The following is the commemorative speech I delivered at the festival:
My fellow Seoulites,
It is nice to hold a significant event like this on a beautiful spring day. Welcome to the Seoul Nuri Festival 2013.
You have heard about Helen Keller, haven’t you? She was struck blind, deaf, and mute after falling ill. Still, she achieved many great things that even non-handicapped people could hardly dare to do. She carried out diverse activities for the handicapped, women, and workers, giving them hope. She said, “Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible.”
I hope this festival serves as an occasion that can give the hope of achieving the impossible to all people.
I would like to thank everybody, including Mr. Lee Gyu Dal who made painstaking efforts in organizing the event. Let me also extend my congratulations to the disabled who have lived tenaciously despite their unfavorable circumstances, those who have worked for the welfare of the disabled, and those who received the Seoul Metropolitan Government Welfare Award in the sector of the disabled.
About this time last year, we at Seoul Metropolitan Government announced a comprehensive plan for giving hope to the disabled. The plan included giving bonus points to businesses hiring the disabled in connection with their participation in Seoul Metropolitan Government-initiated biddings. We have kept people informed of the result of evaluation of promotion of detailed programs every quarter. This year, the number of Seriously Disabled Self-Reliant Life Support Centers has been increased by 9 to 34 as part of efforts to lay the substantial groundwork for the self-reliant life of the disabled.
Seoul Metropolitan Government, 16 invested institutions, and 25 autonomous districts in the city make it a rule to purchase 70% of their supplies from businesses owned by the less privileged, including the disabled. We have also improved the infrastructure for the disabled, including the following: barrier-free parks, living environment for the disabled, subway facilities for the disabled, support provided to help the seriously disabled engage in hobbies, support provided for their families, increase in the number of taxis for the disabled to 360 in 2012 (to be increased by 60 this year).
Nonetheless, there are many invisible barriers for the disabled in our society. Realistically, we have a long way to go in realizing true welfare for the disabled, including complete social participation of the disabled, guarantee of income and medical service, and equal education and job opportunities for the disabled. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, however.
This year, Seoul Metropolitan Government set a 10% quota for the disabled among newly hired city officials. We will see to it that their rights and interests are properly protected. We will also set up a plan for the construction of buildings for the disabled considering their heightened desire to take part in social activities.
We have set a principle of letting the disabled live as ordinary members of the community. Under such welfare principle for the disabled, we have run a total of 52 homes for hands-on experience of a self-reliant way of life since 2009, the first of its kind to be adopted by a local government. To help them settle down in a local community, we will expand the programs for providing jeonse houses to the disabled and enable more houses to be built by public institutions for allocation to the disabled.
Needless to say, we should pay special attention and care to children with developmental disabilities as well as the mentally retarded. At present, the bill for the Act on Support for Children with Developmental Disabilities and Guarantee of Their Rights is under deliberation at the National Assembly. The event held today includes the Forum concerning Policy Support for the Protection of Rights of Children with Developmental Disabilities. Please take part in the forum and express your opinions.
With regard to the comprehensive plan for giving hope to the disabled, Seoul Metropolitan Government will push through with the relevant policy more substantively this year. We will also endeavor to adopt policies of the disabled, for the disabled, and by the disabled. We will make Seoul a special city for the welfare of the disabled so that we can produce many Helen Kellers.
For today’s event, we prepared a variety of programs to help the disabled and all participants have a good time together. We should not be content with a one-day event for the disabled, however. We should always take care of them.
Finally, I wish all the disabled and their families good luck and happiness and express my deep gratitude to all those who took part in the preparations for this event. Thank you.