A Greek police officer who was discharged in 2009 due to disability was reinstated into the force this week after launching a successful campaign to change the law.
Antonis Tsapatakis was considered by the Hellenic Police (ELAS) as incapable of carrying out his duties as a police officer. He was dismissed, together with 14 of his colleagues who were also disabled.
Tsapatakis, who is confined to a wheelchair, did not give up, however. He fought all those years to convince ELAS that the law on disability was wrong and discriminatory and he eventually succeeded.
“I did not dare to dream,” says the disabled Greek police officer
“Have you ever achieved something you never imagined? Today I achieved something I had not even dared to dream,” he wrote on an Instagram post.
“In 2009 the health committee of ELAS considered me incapable of continuing my service in the force. Today I was promoted to an officer after my victory at the Tokyo Paralympics 2020.
“But I am most proud of the fact that I was able, through the change in the law I requested, to make it possible for another 14 colleagues who had been fired for the same reason to be re-hired,” Tsapatakis says.
Εσείς έχετε καταφέρει κάτι το οποίο δεν φανταστήκατε ποτέ;
Εγω σήμερα κατάφερα κάτι που δεν είχα τολμήσει καν να ονειρευτώ… pic.twitter.com/9MayQKAywc
— Antonis Tsapatakis (@ATsapatakis) March 17, 2022
“I hope that those who voted in favor of the original unjust bill will read these lines to realize that everything is possible, with a will, faith, effort, and love,” Tsapatakis notes.
As he mentions in his Instagram post, the police officer from Crete won a bronze medal in the 100 meter breaststroke swimming race at the Tokyo Paralympic Games 2020 that took place in August-September 2021.
He also represented Greece in the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics, where on both occasions he finished fourth in the same event.
Greece and disability
Greece has made great strides for disabled persons’ ease of movement and access since the 2004 Athens Olympics.
The implementation of a brand new Metro system, a new international airport and buildings and facilities purposely built with great consideration for the mobility impaired for the Olympic Games made getting around much easier for those in wheelchairs.
But there is still much work to be done for the disabled, even though the government had set a deadline of 2020 for all public buildings to be accessible for the disabled, including ramps, railings, elevators and public bathrooms. This has not been achieved.