What has changed in twenty years?

We have interviewed a number of the Olga Havel Award laureates, and asked them these two questions: Has the Olga Havel Award changed your life? Are you still actively involved in helping the handicapped people? What do you think about developments in the field of your interest? What has improved?

We will provide you the answers, which will make you wonder, and realize, that the innovations have rapidly improved although we might feel that they are progressing very slowly.


Ing. Jana Hrdá, the Olga Havel Award 1995 Laureate

What I appreciate the most is the progress in human thinking

In 1978, she got hurt in an accident, and stayed completely paralyzed. But she fought for the right to take care of her children. Since 1990, she participated in building and developing the Prague Organization of people on wheelchairs, and started to organize courses of private assistance for the association of an independent lifestyle in the Czech Republic.  She helps with launching social reforms in the Czech Republic, and in 1999, she published a biography called “Lord is our Shepard”.

ad 1/ I was the very first person who received the Award. I was honored when, as the only one of the laureates, I undeservedly received the prize from Olga Havel´s hands. I felt like it was unfair towards the others, who also worked for the handicapped people. Another ten of them would definitely deserve such a prize more than me! So it became my commitment, and I dedicated my next life to defending the rights of my handicapped colleagues. It is my pleasure to meet people, who are in the same situation as me. They are beautiful and able to cope with their, and even others´ issues. If God gives me the strength, I will not give up this fight, and continue working on improving the handicapped peoples´ lives. 

ad 2/ When I look back, I can tell there has been a progress in social services, available opportunities, and options in education and employment. However, what I appreciate the most is the progress in the human way of thinking. From my perspective, one does not feel comfortable when one is called a hero or seen as a poor guy. Despite our handicap, we are human beings in the first place, and the best way to treat us is to accept us as the part of society. Just simply accept us.

Iveta Pešková, laureate of the OH Award 1997  

Mere money is not enough

She was born with a severe congenital defect of the musculoskeletal system. In 1989, she established a civic association Prosaz, which mainly focuses on personal assistance, operates a non-stop emergency call and professional social advice center, protected workshops, sport diving for people on wheelchairs, etc. In 2000, she participated in the organization of the world Abilympics. 

ad 1/ Wondering why I received the Prize, I come to a conclusion that besides helping handicapped people, it was mainly my life optimism – I must admit, that I hesitate to say what exactly has changed since then. Especially when considering the very optimism. Sometimes I wonder if there is any of it left in me. But at the end, I have to admit to myself, that if there hasn´t been any, I would have already given up.

ad 2/ It is hard to make a statement about the social services or the non-profitable sector in general, because one does not want to talk about money all the time. However, whether we want it or not, we still have to face the economic part of the things everywhere we go. And in case of the non-profitables, you always get in a situation where you try to find a source of financial support and think about new donors who you haven´t asked for any yet. But the mere money is never enough. I have met many people, who work in this sector. Almost all of them had some other kind of motivation than money. I feel like it keeps the idea of the Olga Havel Award alive. It´s a symbol of a “different” motivation other than money.

Anica Dvořáková, laureate of the OH Award 2001

It is a miracle for us to be able to hear and understand

She became partly deaf as a child, and completely deaf in 1990. She established the Czech Club for Deaf People, in which she became a voluntary chairwoman and launched lip-reading courses. Since 1995, due to her efforts, the Czech Television enabled closed captioning in news and hi quality films. She participated in publishing a Video-course of lip-reading for deaf people on DVD and available web pages for deaf people. .

ad 1/ The award meant a lot to me. It brought me the feeling of happiness, satisfaction, and a high quality change in my personal life. Yes, I still continue working with deaf people. I mostly work with people, who are becoming, or became deaf in their adult age. It is important to keep them active and remove the isolation of communication with society.

ad 2/ Developments have been progressive mainly in the communication sector. There have been improvements especially with the electronics, closed captioning, existence of the overwriting of the spoken word on PC, tablets, or cell phones. It has been an amazing support for people with hearing disorders. And what about cochlear implants! The progress in this sector is really visible, and the number of implanted children and adults is continuously rising. For us, who know what it feels like to be deaf, it is a miracle, that we can understand and communicate..

Jiří Šedý, laureate of the OH Award 2002

Society has been changing in the way of thinking, which leads to myth breaking

He and his mom established the Association for helping handicapped children in Hlinsko, which supports families with handicapped children, who have the same problems as him  (Down syndrome). He is a co-establisher of an agency for the employment support Radost, provides support for people in need of help, published four books of tales, and draws.

ad 1/ The social circles around me have enlarged, Václav Havel as a figure, who I met a few times, was a great influence for my literary works, and strengthened my knowledge that the handicapped people definitely don´t stand on the edge of society. I realized that even a person who is somehow different can be appreciated publicly for helping others. I keep doing my job and, as a volunteer, I try to help everywhere, where it is needed. I understand how important it is to have a society, which knows about us – the different ones, admits and respects us with all our wishes and needs, That´s why I give lectures in schools about human dignity and accepting every single person on our Earth.  I write books and paint pictures, in which I express my positive point of view.

ad 2/ I can feel, that society is changing its way of thinking, and it leads to myth breaking. It is necessary to drag people naturally into the world of the handicapped people. To make them realize, that fake pity is not helping us at all. I see many people around me, and what´s the best, there are young people, who friendly accept us, treat us with respect, and fully respect our human dignity.


Jiří Herynek, laureate of the OH Award 2007

Now is the time to develop social entrepreneurship

Establisher of a social firm Ergotep in Proseč u Skutče - – a grunge for people with difficulties to get on the labor market. The firm successfully fulfills its goals in areas of vocational and comprehensive rehabilitation, by which it helps to integrate the handicapped into society.  

ad 1/ To me it was a significant moment in life, deep spiritual experience, and a great challenge. I realized how important it is to join forces and optimize and improve the integration process of the handicapped people, so that it really brings a positive change into their lives. Our company Ergotep focusing on social entrepreneurship employs 164 workers (from which 93% with mental or physical handicap) and offers quality work places in addition with our education center, so the education is connected to practice. We want to entangle studies, support, and practice in a way, so that it brings a major change into the lives of disabled people and those who need help. It should also help them live economically right after they finish their studies, have families and find a dignified, respectable status in society. 

ad 2/ I assume, that after all the “dirt” of the recent society, there comes the time of progress in social entrepreneurship. It is necessary to properly define the right projects and goals. And mainly to support functioning of those projects, which will being some CHANGE, and not only get completed without any effect. . . If the outcome of a project is only an interview with some refreshments and a DVD with advice, it is not enough. But if a project brings a change into someone´s life after completing a complex, quality systematic process – then our vision will be fulfilled.

JUDr. Jan Hutař, laureate of the OH Award 2008

From requestors to demanders..

He works as a lawyer and director of the legislative department of the National Council for handicapped people in the Czech Republic. Despite his disability, he has been helping others for a long time. He works in the legislative field for people with medical handicap, and engages in providing jobs for people with disabilities.

ad 1/ Winning the Award was a very significant experience for me. It was like the absolute top. I had known many of the laureates before, so I know they are outstanding figures as human beings, but in some cases also specialists. I still continue working with handicapped people, but not so actively anymore. I still work at the National Council for handicapped people as a director of the legislative department, and I provide lectures mostly for parents with handicapped children.

I am very sorry, that only a small number of the young people with medical handicap is interested in legislative regulations regarding their life condition. I understand that the law and legislature itself cannot significantly improve the status of the handicapped people. However, they can enormously worsen the quality of their lives. 

ad 2/ I see the progress negatively. I believe, that the breaking point was the act 261/2007, which caused that people with salaries higher than 1 million CZK were passed 510 000 CZK from the state budget for each another raised million. It was caused by a set boundary. if the limit is overcome, one does not have to pay social and health insurance, and the tax duty decreases from 32 % to 15 % if the salary is higher than one million CZK.  Understandably, this caused account deficits, for which the compensation was, that the social fee was cancelled, which resulted in poverty in more than 150 thousand families with over 300 thousand children. The amount of the cancelled salaries was about 1174 to 3672 CZK monthly in case of families with one handicapped children, and 2349 to 7002 CZK in families with a single parent. Due to new changes in the parental grants, these families will lose 418 thousands CZK in 7 years. It results in lack of money for the medicine and compensation aids. The bill of reconsidering the invalidity has healed many more people than Lurdy! And I could continue with similar examples. People with various disorders are forced to change from requestors to demanders. The government was probably the only one who improved. The new Civil Code – although in a low-level processing – provides more opportunities to people with limited or no legal capacity. However, I worry, that according to the way it is functioning, it will cause a judiciary collapse in three years.

Mgr. Věra Strnadová, laureate of the OH Award 2011

“the Nobel prize for handicapped”

She became deaf after suffering a severe illness during her childhood. She is a vice president of the Association of organizations for the deaf, hard of hearing people, and their friends in Czech Republic. She is the leader of a commission for closed capturing and the legislative commission, participates in enforcing a bill about communication systems for deaf and hard of hearing people and enacting a new social service, simultaneous overwrite of the spoken word. 

ad 1/ If someone appreciates your work, it is a sign, that it is meaningful, and you are doing it right – this motivates you to keep on doing it. The OH Award is very prestigious; a colleague of mine has rightfully named it a Nobel Prize for people with handicap.

ad 2/ As a volunteer, I work in favor of people with hearing disabilities, focusing mainly on reducing the numerous barriers. Those, who are able to hear have no idea, that the deaf people face architectonic barriers, barriers in transportation,... it is also about communication information availability, and access to the TV broadcasting.  This is not only about the enlightenment – many things need to be applied into the judicial system. The right to choose from 10 communication systems for deaf and deaf-blind people was successfully brought into legislature. One of the communication systems is the transcription, which has enabled to legally build up a system of new services, which helps people with education, at conferences, in legal proceedings, and all kinds of meetings. Nowadays, I am trying to enforce changes in the broadcasting act.  The part of the act about availability of broadcasting for deaf people is so vague, that it does not allow us to use our rights.

Remembering the first Olga Havel Award on the 5th of May, 1995

We were hoping to acquaint the public with handicapped people, inform how they cope with the disabilities, and provide an insight into their lives. Back then, the CoGW was celebrating the 5th anniversary of its establishment, which was the right time to come up with a new project.

Help with the project was provided by the former mayor of Prague Jaroslav Kořán, an old friend from times of dissidence, person with unique ideas, talented in organization. Just how much had we been wondering how to introduce the life missions of people, who despite of their handicap chose to help others! We came to conclusion, that there is not any award for handicapped people in our country or anywhere else in the world – and the idea came to life. We still had to set a program and ask Mr. Olbram Zboubek to create a sculpture, which would become the physical form of the prestigious award.

We invited each of our sister organizations from Europe and overseas, introduced them the project, set up a press event, on the next day we gave our thanks to donors and colleagues of the CoGW, and finally announced the laureate of the Olga Havel Award. It was a surprise until the very last moment. We invited a few nominated figures, and... the first laureate of the Olga Havel Award was Jana Hrdá.

Jana Hrdá refused to follow the ordinary order already during the times of socialism, when all the handicapped people lived behind the walls of facilities for social care. She became an enthusiastic promoter of the idea of an independent life, had her first personal assistants - volunteers, who were helping her and when she got completely paralyzed, she could stay at home and raise two children. At the beginning of the 90s, she became a co-establisher of the Prague organization of people on wheelchairs, and cooperated with the CoGW.

It was the 5th May, 1995, a sunny day, the chestnuts were blooming and the guests, who were invited for a ceremony were coming to the Lichtenstein palace. This day is unforgettable. Someone had told us, that the 5 May is the day, when we celebrate the rights of people on wheelchairs. Later we found out, that 5 May is actually the international day of the Parkinson disease, but we kept the tradition and the Olga Havel Awards ceremony is always in May. For the Parkinson disease is also a handicap, which people must cope with in order to remain useful for other as long as possible. Mrs. Olga Havel invited children and adults from the facility for social care to share this special occasion with others, led a conversation with them and encouraged them. During that time, there were already numbers of established facilities for day care for children with combined handicap in Czech Republic, which were the first signs of the upcoming changes in social politics of the country. The system change was the main goal of Olga’s activities and the Olga Havel Award has definitely supported it.

MUDr. Milena Černá

Director of the Olga Havel Foundation


„We wish that the right for dignified life is also enjoyed by those who live with handicap or mental illness, abandoned and old people, those who have a different skin colour or a different way of life, those in poverty or attacked by a malignant disease.“ Olga Havel
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