On December 3 the world commemorates International day of persons with disabilities. This day is a usual one for long reports by state authorities in every country on solving the problems of persons with disabilities, the day of obligatory mentioning of disability issues in mass-media. But there is another way to commemorate this day – celebration. The reason can be state’s and society’s success in overcoming disability barriers and integration of persons with disabilities.
It is not possible to think of the society’s development without understanding the generally accepted strategy, coordinated plan of actions. When we talk about disability it is the Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities (UN 2006) which is the binding element between the development goals, importance of human dignity and states’ policies. 155 countries out of almost 200 have signed the Convention. They acknowledged and accepted its principles and started to observe and realize in practice the concrete rights of persons with disabilities, made a step towards the society of persons with special needs. The Convention has become the universal language of communication in solving disability issues, entrusted to state authorities.
To our deepest regret, on December 3 2013 we have to say that we have no reasons for common celebration of the International day of persons with disabilities in Belarus. Belarus is the only country in Europe which hasn’t yet signed and ratified the Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities. And this is very shameful. Because already for many years persons with disabilities, their organizations, other NGOs and international institutions have been asking the authorities to consider the question of joining to the Convention, but the answer is always “we are preparing”. And they have neither program nor plans of preparation by the country for signing and realizing, there is no any official position.
It is shameful that Belarus had undertaken obligations during the procedure of Universal periodic review in 2010 on joining the Convention and hasn’t done anything yet. It is shameful that in 2013, as in 2012 we can’t join the common agenda of this day - “Break Barriers, Open Doors: for an inclusive society and development for all”.
It is shameful that significant efforts in this sphere are made and a lot of money is spent, but a person with disability is still excluded from all the decision-making processes concerning him/her and from the control of the realization of these decisions.
The refuse to sign and to ratify the Convention means for our society that this year and the next year persons with disabilities will not see the real plans how their human dignity will be respected in practice but not on words, and will not see the real step towards the equality. There will be no progress in the sphere of protection against the discrimination, the spread of which in Belarus the authorities prefer not to see. There will be no real progress in providing each person with the choice of a way of life – at home, with family, in habitual environment or vice versa in special institution. There will be no progress in the sphere of accessibility and protection of social rights and guarantees for persons with disabilities in the form of compensation activities (creation of barrier-free environment, provision with rehabilitation means and medicines, provision with special services), because of economic benefits and interests of a small group of people. State programs will not be created taking into account the real needs of citizens with disabilities and with their participation, what will help to prevent decision-making that violates rights and worsens the situation for thousands of people.
That is why December 3 is a sad day, when other people speak about “invalids”, the day when persons with disabilities celebrate one more year with barriers. The day, which hasn’t become the day of integration.