Victor Yushchenko has presented awards to specialists involved in the rehabilitation of people with particular needs to mark International Day of Disabled Persons, observed on December 3, according to the President`s press-office.

      In his speech, the President said there were over 2.5 mln people with physical disabilities in Ukraine.

      “I am not speaking about hundreds of people but about every twentieth Ukrainian citizen,” he said, adding that it was incumbent on all of us to help such people.

      Mr. Yushchenko suggested holding a national round table next spring to create favorable living and working conditions for the disabled and help them rehabilitate. Such round tables should also be conducted throughout the country, he said. The President added that local authorities and NGOs should make sure that his decrees aimed at helping the disabled and changing the attitude of society towards them are implemented.

      He also suggested presenting an annual report on how the disabled live and work in Ukraine. It will help evaluate the implementation of nationwide and local programs in this area and enable the government to make necessary corrections, he explained.

      The President said the government had considerably raised payments to people with disabilities in 2005.

      “Of course it is not the full answer to the question. However, if we build our dialogue with invalids in this direction, I am convinced their social status will profoundly change in the near future,” he said.

      He urged business leaders to help the government tackle this problem.

      “Business must make a contribution to the rehabilitation of the disabled. Without it, it is impossible to implement the idea of corporate social responsibility,” he said.

      Mr. Yushchenko also said NGOs should promote respect for people with particular needs in society.

      When presenting awards, the President said the life of the disabled was often an “illustration of strong will, courage and stamina.” He thanked those who help people with disabilities.