Belgium: Not what we do, but what we are

Many of the handicapped in Belgium have found places in the world of paid work, most often through alternative, publicly funded enterprises. These make it possible for the handicapped to enter the rhythm of life by providing ?adaptations? that enable them to do productive work. Social recognition comes, it cannot be denied, through a paid salary. José Davin SJ, who heads a pastoral team of people working with the disabled, firmly believes that disabled people should be rehabilitated and absorbed into the workforce, that this is a cause that must be pursued and guaranteed; remuneration for work done, according to him, is the only thing that brings a true sense of autonomy. Perhaps this is not enough. Integration of this kind depends too much on public subsidies and the vagaries of political forces that have little time for the weakest. As a result, salaried jobs go only to those with slight motor or mental disabilities; other, more severely disabled persons have to be satisfied with simple, mechanical tasks. But well begun is half done, and the performance of such daily tasks goes some way in building self-esteem. In a survey on ?Work and handicap,? published by ?Évangile et Justice,? the Jesuit magazine of the Centre AVEC in Brussels (March 2003), Fr. Davin expresses his admiration for the courage of those who, once they are inserted in the production system, steadily reclaim respect and dignity for themselves. At the same time, he would also like to see a change of values. Appreciation of social utility is related to what one does. What about the importance of what one is? [HL30504]