“The main problem is that a person with disability doesn’t know his rights”. – This statement sounded at the presentation of annual Monitoring of citizens’ appeals to the Office for the rights of persons with disabilities.
“Office for the rights of persons with disabilities has been working for a year. During this time we received 1431 appeals, 863 of them were taken for further more detailed consideration. The majority of appeals were from Minsk – 509, 354 were from regions” – told the coordinator of the Office for the rights of persons with disabilities Sergey Drozdovskiy.
The division of the appeals to categories is the following:
· Sufficient standard of living and social protection: 437 (51%)
· Independent living and involvement into local community: 103 (12%)
· Labour and employment: 93 (11%)
· Accessibility (including barrier-free environment): 87 (10%)
· Health: 62 (7%)
· Habilitation and rehabilitation: 31 (4%)
· Education 18 (2%)
· Participation in cultural life, leisure, sports: 6 (1%)
· Personal freedom: 6 (1%)
· Access to justice: 9 (1%)
· Personal mobility: 7 (1%)
· Freedom of movement and citizenship: 3 (0%)
· Freedom of speech and access to information: 1(0%)
“People who come to our office, first of all are looking for the answers to questions like “How to survive?”, “What to eat?”, “How and where to sleep?”. Unfortunately until a person can’t solve such kind of problems he can’t think about some “lofty matters”, about self-realization and even about employment. The majority of 1500 appeals to the Office’s legal consultation were about life standards and social protection – says Sergey Drozdovskiy – The problem of independent living and involvement in local community is at the second place. We understand it, because a person with disability has a lot of limitations; movement, communication with other people, building economic and social bond with the society. The absence of social services, personal assistants is just worsening the situation. The third place – employment and labour. These factors are very important for a person in order to live full and independent life. Employment of persons with disabilities is very often connected with discrimination: employers divide all the applicants into two categories: disabled and not disabled employee. The problems of accessibility are not only about barrier-free environment they also include economic, social and judicial accessibility. For example, in Belarusian courts there are several procedural gaps that make the system of justice inaccessible to persons with disabilities; even the norms of barrier-free environment are not observed – disabled simply cannot enter the court building.
The lawyer of the Office for the rights of persons with disabilities explained the main problem Drozdovskiy spoke about at the beginning of the presentation: “A person with disability doesn’t have information about his rights. And this is a huge gap at work of territorial centers and social protection services. There is also a big difference between Minsk and regions: people in regions don’t have access to information, they don’t know where and to whom to go. They come to us and even do not try to appeal to state bodies of local authorities. They don’t believe that state bodies can help. But there are also people who had tried every possible way to solve their problem before they came to us. They almost lost faith in the possibility of solving their problem”.
“If there were about a dozen of such organizations as the Office, and in every region, it would be much easier to solve the problems of persons with disabilities – summed up Sergey Drozdovskiy – but the state is not interested in enlarging the number of such organizations. That is why we have to search for other ways to solve the problem”.