Markéta Pechová has become the first Czech woman with a disability to
swim the English Channel.
Pechová, now 40, had her right leg amputated in childhood due to cancer. She swam from Dover, England, to the French shore on Sunday in just 12 hours and 31 minutes.
Despite her handicap, the athlete from Liberec regularly competes in long-distance swimming competitions.
She is the 25th Czech to have swum the English Channel. Among them is Yvetta Hlaváčová, who crossed it in less than 7 hours, 25 minutes and 15 seconds in 2006, a world record for women.
Krkonoše is home to the highest mountains in the Czech Republic, with majestic peaks protruding above the alpine tree line and a unique mosaic of ecosystems in valleys formed in the ancient glacial past. Dozens of mountain trails and alpine meadows paths in the Krkonoše or Giant Mountains are now accessible also for handicapped nature-lovers and families with prams.
Jakub Mertl and his wife Kristyna who run a successful personalized dating agency, recently made headlines by establishing an online dating agency catering specially to disabled people. I met with Jakub to talk about his work and what it takes to find love. He started by telling me what made him and his wife consider setting up a special online service for disabled clients.
Czech assistants who offer sex and intimate relations to the handicapped have offered their services around 250 times since the operation started around 18 months ago. The manager of the services, which has passed to the organisation Freya, says it is now looking to expand and add to its staff of five female assistants. Three of these are currently based in Prague and one each in the second city Brno and northern town of Trutnov. Freya said ideally assistants would be based in all of the Czech regions. It would now like to recruit men as well as women. The trained assistants offer sex and sexual help to those who have previously had difficulty obtaining it. Similar services are offered in a series of Western countries.
The Czech Republic is introducing sexual assistants trained to provide paid services to disabled people. The assistants, whose services were approved by the Interior Ministry, were selected and trained by the Czech charity ‘Rozkoš bez rizika’ (‘Bliss without Risk’), which provides counselling for sex-workers.
The number of companies employing disadvantaged people in the Czech Republic has been increasing over the past years. According to the P3 company which monitors the country’s social entrepreneurship, their number has tripled over the last three years from around seventy in 2012 to over 200 this year. Employees of the companies include people with various handicaps, former prisoners, homeless or long-term unemployed people. Most of the companies offer catering, cleaning and gardening services.
According to a report presented to the cabinet by the minister for human rights and equal opportunities, Jiří Dienstbier, Czech public administration is failing in its duty to employ a set number of people with disabilities or support their employment indirectly by purchasing goods or services from firms that employ them. According to the report not a single Czech ministry fulfilled the set 4 percent quota, paying almost 16 million crowns in fines for the failure.
In mid-February, Wenceslas Square in Prague will be hosting a special event – a concert of the Tap Tap orchestra. The Tap Tap has travelled the world, performed at the Prague Spring festival and sold out the Prague Opera House, but what makes this band truly unique are its members: most of them are handicapped.
President Miloš Zeman’s spokesman has categorically denied a report in the Právo newspaper that a restaurant had received instructions from Prague Castle that the president was not to be served at by any of its handicapped staff members. He said the report had been deliberately construed to damage the public image of the head of state. Jiří Ovčáček added that the president’s office had consulted with one of the handicapped persons working at the brewery restaurant about how the meal would proceed. Právo said staff were given some hours off but had to come back later to clean up.
Representatives of his office ordered that President Miloš Zeman not be waited on by handicapped servers on a visit to a restaurant on Tuesday, its owner, Jan Srb, told the newspaper Právo. Mr. Srb said his Křinický brewery in the town of Krásná Lípa in Central Bohemia had received instructions from Prague Castle that the president was not to be served at its restaurant by any of its handicapped staff members. They were given some hours off but had to come back later to clean up. Earlier on Tuesday a group of handicapped people had protested against the president over a recent statement that handicapped and able-bodied children should not attend the same schools.