Disability rights: progress but still far to go

Disability rights have greatly improved but talk of victory is premature


On 5 May 1992 in 17 European countries people with disabilities simultaneously held a day marking the struggle for disability rights and against discrimination of people with physical, psychological or sensory disabilities. Since then, according to Denise Roza, chair of the organisation Perspective, much has changed but many problems still remain.

The World Health Organisation states that more than 1 billion people, or around 15% of the world’s population, have some form of disability. According to data from the Pension Fund of Russia, as of 1 September 2015, 12.45 million Russians are living with disabilities while almost 40 million have limited mobility. Every year since 1992, the International Day for Disability Rights has been marked on 5 May.

Denise Roza emphasises that in many countries, including Russia, people with disabilities and their family members still face a daily struggle for their rights.

“People with disabilities are the largest minority both in Russia and globally. Thus people with disabilities are probably the most exposed to discrimination. I talk with civil society leaders from various countries, and they can all cite a wealth of examples of infringements of the rights of people with disabilities. We see many such cases, and I am sure that my colleagues and friends with disabilities nationwide can give multiple examples from everyday life: they just have to leave the house to immediately face discrimination”, believes Denise.

The expert stresses that those with disabilities must defend their rights at a variety of levels: from the domestic sphere, where parents can be overbearing, to the workplace and society. Here examples include teams with hearing impaired members which often forget to invite a sign language interpreter to workshops. In many cases, companies simply refuse employment, despite candidates possessing the required skills and experience.

“Today the situation is different to 15, 10 or even five years ago. Many rights have been enshrined in legislation, which is a great achievement. The progress is very pleasing. Nonetheless, many problems remain. People with disabilities continue to be denied employment, and parents must fight to ensure their disabled child receives education on a par with their peers without disabilities. Access to higher education

While accessibility is gradually improving, it is still too early to describe society as barrier-free.

“The most important thing is that society is gradually changing and is beginning to understand that people with disabilities should have the opportunity and means of becoming fully-fledged members of society. In 1992 nobody considered that. Since then much has been achieved for disabled people in Russia, but it is too early to talk of a complete victory”, believes Denise.

She believes rights advocacy is vital. At the same time it is important for people with disabilities to learn this for themselves or to use the support offered, for example, by Perspective and other organisations.

Author: Irina Laktyushina



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