The authorities have not yet adopted the draft law on Belarus joining the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. However, people with disabilities consider that joining this convention would help to overcome discrimination in society.
Marianna Shchetkina, Secretary of Labour and Social Protection, said that the draft law “on accession of the Republic of Belarus to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities” had been worked out. Currently the law is under adjustment.
Sergey Drozdovskiy, coordinator of the Office for the Rights of People with Disabilities, notices that a year ago there was the same situation: a lot was spoken, but little was done.
According to him, “joining an international convention imposes certain obligations on a state.” By saying so he means not only the financial aspect, but above all the attitude of the government towards people with disabilities. Drozdovskiy stresses that the attitude should be changed for the problem of discrimination is very serious.
He considers absence of barrier-free environment as an example of such discrimination. It is also the major problem for people who use wheelchairs. On May 5th, 2012 they held a rally in Minsk and urged the president to ensure their constitutional rights.
In the appeal to the president, adopted at the rally, it is stated that a number of articles of the Constitution, in particular those that ensure good living standards, freedom of movement and the right to decent social security, are violated in the case of wheelchair users and people unable to sit out of bed.
Evgeny Shevko, chairman of the social organization “the Republican association of wheelchair users”, said to the information company BelaPAN that members of the organization were not satisfied with replies received to their appeal to the president. According to him, the only thing that officials say is that the issues are being considered.
There are a lot of problems that should be solved. “We will be waiting for concrete steps”, said Evgeny Shevko.
Marianna Shchetkina, on her part, pointed out that creating barrier-free environment requires large resources, including financing and time.
According to the minister, a great deal has been done since 2007 to implement the State Program on Barrier-Free Environment for People with Disabilities. This includes buying low-floor public vehicles, supplying the most important social infrastructure facilities with elements of barrier-free environment, installation of detectable warning surfaces at underground crosswalks and on underground stations and creation of awareness about these issues. A lot is yet to be done to create barrier-free environment, but the most important thing is that the activity in this direction is being carried out.
Evgeny Shevko agrees that some steps have been taken by the government to create barrier-free environment. At the same time he stresses that many wheelchair users cannot leave their homes for several years because of high street curbs, doorsteps and absence of ramps. In Belarus there are no personal assistant services, therefore many people with disabilities depend on their friends and relatives. At the same time it has been estimated that 20 to 22 thousand people in Belarus are wheelchair users.
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