Miloslav Maxa., Czechoslovak Building Centre Prague, Czech Republic
Both organizational and expert activity depends on personal initiative and the interest of a small group of enthusiasts affiliated with the Association of Disabled People in Prague. But as it turned out from the experience, even this Association shows no interest in this sphere of activity. This painful statement is even more embarrassing by the fact that neither state authorities paid any attention to this problem other than to pass Decree Nr. 53/1985, the fulfilment of which it did not control in any way, and with a small subsidy to promote products and materials for constructions designated for persons who are disabled. This situation has not even changed since the revolution in November 1989.
I have been engaged in the Central Commission for Environment for Disabled People in the Czech Republic in Prague since its foundation (1986) and was the main expert in the sphere of building products for construction designated for persons with disabilities and thus I have gained a lot of true and objective experience
This Commission was established on the basis of Decree Nr. 53/1985 under theformer Union of Disabled People in the Czech Republic. Today it is called the Association of Disabled People in the Czech Republic, represented by a range of volunteers - specialists not paid for their activity. Without any implementation instruments the Commission substitutes the activity falling under the competence of state which showed no activity in the past and does not seem to intend to show any even now. Staff responsible for this area at the respective Ministries do not know what such an activity represents and thus have no interest in arranging anything.
By the end of June, 1991, the Governmental Committee for Disabled People in the Czech Republic was established under the chairmanship of the Prime-Minister of the Czech Republic, Petr Pithart; perhaps there is hope that improvement will soon come.
The Commission is to enforce Decree Nr. 53/1985 at the stage of preparatory works and design solution of the construction. Starting from the construction up to the final approval, the control is not provided because of the lack of manpower. The Commission is also responsible for initiating legislative amendments to the existing legal regulations, enforcing of modifications of Czechoslovak standards and other building regulations of relevance to persons with disabilities.
The Commission is to enforce barrier-free housing construction for disabled people in different regions. This task includes cooperation with the respective authorities including such aspects as apartment distribution, booking and usability. Consultancy activity is regularly provided in all regions in the presence of professional consultants giving their statements on individual projects. On the basis of these statements regional commissions for environment of disabled people should control the requirement of barrier-free construction. Barrier-free construction should be visibly marked by internationally agreed upon symbols for access.
Materials and products
During the construction phase the Commission is responsible for providing active help and cooperation in searching for the necessary products, identifying the producers of selected products and equipment such as lifting devices, furniture, fittings etc. These products are not tested.
Promotion and publicity
The Commission engages in arranging and organizing professional meetings (seminars, symposia, lectures, congresses etc.) on specific subjects. Publishing activity is limited by the means available, i.e., it consists in issuing of annotations, research studies, specialized articles and even in assistance in compiling the catalogue of products for barrier-free constructions and in issuing the specialized publication "Barrier-free construction" which is currently in press.
In conclusion, it is necessary to point out that the Central Commission is represented by the chairmen of regional commissions (former counties) and by other specialists, e.g. for products, transport, etc. Experience has shown that this Commission is of high professional level, represented mostly by university graduates. Existential problems of the Commission are considered to be temporary as we hope that Government and Ministries will become aware of these problems before they themselves need wheelchairs.