There are approximately 150,000 people confined to wheelchairs in Poland, and every year between 1,600 and 1,800 incidents of spinal trauma result in permanent damage to motor skills. Like other physically challenged people in Poland, these individuals find little support or understanding from mainstream Polish society. Indeed, many face discrimination in education, work and housing. For example, only three percent of all Poles in wheelchairs are university graduates, as compared to nine percent of the total population; only twenty percent of the disabled have graduated from high school, compared with 39 percent of all Poles. The unemployment rate for wheelchair-confined individuals with university degrees is five times higher than that of nondisabled university graduates.
These statistics reflect the misperceptions about the disabled in Polish society. Parents often will not allow their healthy children to help or interact with people in wheelchairs, because they are afraid that their children will become infected with a disease that will disable them. Furthermore, disabled children are often segregated into special schools that severely limit their social interaction.
Disabled people who manage to acquire an education often find it difficult to secure meaningful employment. Frequently, when prospective employers discover that a candidate is physically challenged , the offer of a job is withdrawn. Unfortunately, disabled victims of discrimination have little legal recourse under current Polish law.
Even those people who are interested in helping disabled people often find it difficult to relate to them because of their lack of experience and training. They simply do not know what to do for them. Overall, disabled Poles are isolated and are not allowed to realize their enormous potential contributions to Polish society.