Back to the contents
Different Abilities
read in Macedonian


Mile Stojkoski is an impressive man.  Currently pushing himself, physically and mentally, on a 5,700 kilometer marathon to London in his wheelchair, the 47-year-old is also pushing those of us who are not disabled to recognize those with disabilities and special needs.  On his journey, he is raising awareness about the needs of those who have different abilities.

He told German media outlet Deutsche Welle “The reactions are always positive, and people are either stunned, shocked or very glad to see something like this. My idea is to come out on the streets to make disability visible, to make it disappear. Even if it’s dangerous, I keep on doing it.”

While he tries to push 50 to 70 kilometers a day on his journey, he also stops where he can to engage the press or visit organizations and groups dedicated to and working with the disabled.  He and his team are making full use of social media, blogging, Tweeting and posting to Facebook and keeping the public informed of his epic journey.

The needs of those who are disabled – or as I prefer to say, those who have different abilities – are many.  They have special needs and often require more resources than the rest of us to live full and productive lives.  Fortunately, there are a number of organizations in Macedonia working to address these needs.

Among its many programs, the Boris Trajkovski International Foundation works with the deaf and hard of hearing (full disclosure: I am on the board of directors of the Foundation).  When we first established the Foundation in 2004 shortly after the tragic death of President Trajkovski and eight of his colleagues, one of the first contacts we made was with an organization called Signo in Norway.  Signo works with the deaf and hard of hearing and working with them, we were able to establish a program in Macedonia to do the same.  The work continues and the Boris Trajkovski International Foundation is currently working with Gallaudet University in America (the only Liberal Arts University for the deaf and hard of hearing in the world) to develop an official Macedonian sign language dictionary and interpreter training program.  This program is especially interesting to me as I have been completely deaf in my left ear since birth.   And there are many other organizations in Macedonia working with the differently abled and they deserve our support as well.

At the same time, we must encourage the government – both the national government and local governments –  to address the needs of the differently abled.  Too often the differently abled are treated as a burden or as something to be set aside and forgotten about.  They are left out of society and treated like undesirables.  This is the wrong attitude and we must all work to help the government create public policies which address the needs of the differently abled.  Whether it is ensuring that they have access to government programs and benefits or that they have access to actual buildings through ramps for wheelchairs (to use but one example), public policies must be created which address the specific needs of those among us who have different abilities.

Fortunately, the Government of Macedonia has signed and ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (signed in 2007 and ratified in December of last year).  The Convention’s aims are to “elaborate in detail the rights of persons with disabilities and set out a code of implementation,” according to Don MacKay, Chairman of the committee that negotiated the treaty.  Among other features, “the Convention Countries that join in the Convention engage themselves to develop and carry out policies, laws and administrative measures for securing the rights recognized in the Convention and abolish laws, regulations, customs and practices that constitute discrimination,” according to the UN website.  In the simplest terms what this means in practicality is that the Government of Macedonia has obligated itself to afford those who are differently abled, the same rights as everyone else.

Beyond government assistance and support, as citizens we must do what we can to support the differently abled and the organizations that serve them.  This means giving financially of our own resources or volunteering our time and talents to assist these organizations or those who are differently abled.  We certainly cannot expect the government to provide for all of our needs (whether we are fully abled or differently abled) and so we must volunteer and contribute.  The church and other religious communities can help as well.  We all need to work to give the differently abled a voice in society and in the government.

Back on the road to London, Mile continues pushing himself.  He is in need of funds to help him on his journey to raise awareness about the disabled and if you can help, consider making a contribution.  No amount is too small and it will be used to help Mile help others like him – a Macedonian, an impressive man, and a man with different abilities.

Copyright ©
Jason Miko
Designed & hosted by
Jurak OT Petrof Studio