Promoting Accessibility, Civic Consciousness, Employment, and Social Support for People with Disabilities
Uzbekistan was one of the first countries in the CIS to focus on the problem of disability and the first in the commonwealth to pass the law “On Social Protection of The Disabled” in 1991 which served as an example for the development of similar laws in other republics. Up to date, the Government has approved the new version of this law that includes the detailed description of mechanisms of ensuring equal right of people with disabilities and the accountability for breaching the law are heightened.
The advantage of the law is in the new approach, people with disabilities are considered not “defective objects of charity” but instead worthy citizens with equal rights . The law brings the national legislation into conformity with international standards in the field of legal protection of people with disabilities and the new Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. Together with a number of other laws such as “On the Guarantees of Child Rights”, “On Education”, “On Protection of Citizens’ Health”, this law provides comprehensive legal basis in the field of disability.
In addition to creating legal basis, the Government of Uzbekistan continues to take concrete measures to promote the well-being of people with disabilities. The Welfare Improvement Strategy for 2008-2010 , together with existing and recently passed measures for social protection of people with disabilities, envisages a number of actions aimed at increasing availability of technical means of rehabilitation, creating barrier-free environment, increasing the effectiveness of the system of rehabilitation, improving the access to education, employment and sports.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Protection of Population is identified by the Government as responsible for the issues of social protection of people with disabilities and their employment. The Ministry has substantial experience and potential in this field. Additionally, it was responsible for the development, implementation, and coordination and monitoring of State Programme on Medico-Social Rehabilitation of the Disabled in 1996-2000.
All these facts indicate the strong commitment of Uzbekistan to building a constitutional state with well developed social policy that provides the rights and interests of all citizens, including citizens with disabilities. However, there are a number of urgent issues to be addressed in the field of equal rights guarantee and socio-economic well-being of people with disabilities.
The official statistics in Uzbekistan indicate that people with disabilities number 780,000 people (2% of total population) of whom 52% are women and 48% are men. 31% of the total number of people with disabilities receive social benefits, around 30% are employed. There is a gap in the data on education coverage and the level of poverty among them in the republic. They are often “invisible” in the national research and analysis. According to the international data, the level of poverty among people with disabilities is at least four times higher than the average in a country, whereas their education and employment opportunities are severely limited.
The assessment conducted by UN in Uzbekistan also indicates the high risk of severe poverty among people with disabilities due to limited access to labor market . Moreover, due to physical barriers, the access to services, that are available to all groups of population, and the participation in socio-political life are often inaccessible for people with physical disabilities. Even the agencies dealing with the disability issues do not have proper facilities accessible to the PWD. Hence, despite the achievements of Uzbekistan in creating legal basis for ensuring socio-economic well-being of people with disabilities, the implementation of the existing legislation remains far from effective.
The adoption of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities by the General Assembly of UN in 2006 is a call for UNDP, the leading organization among UN agencies on promotion of human rights and poverty reduction, to engage actively. For UNDP Uzbekistan the field of disability is relatively new, with only one previous joint project with Special Olympics Uzbekistan that was aimed increasing public awareness through involvement of children and youth with and without disabilities in sports.
Thus ACCESS is the first complex project that deals at once with a number of marginalizing and segregating factors: “invisibility”, stigmatization and “medical” approach, limited access to information, communication and decision-making, limited accessibility of physical environment, insufficient system of socio-legal support. Only via overcoming these negative factors will enable the achievement of full and equal implementation of all fundamental freedoms and rights of people with disabilities.
RBEC Action Plan on People Living with Disabilities for 2008-2009 suggests that RBEC actions for people with disabilities should utilize to the maximum the complex, multi-sectoral approach of UNDP. In line with this the main goal of the project is to widen social integration and employment opportunities for people with disabilities through:
- Increasing public awareness and formation of positive image of disability;
- Improving coordination and strengthening the capacity of state and non-state agencies in the implementation of national legislation in the field of disability;
- Promoting accessible physical environment;
- Creating a system of social support in the employment of people with disabilities.
The project will be implemented in the framework of UNDP Strategy Plan 2008-2011, key results area E “Poverty reduction and achievement of MDGs” with particular focus on sub-area “Promoting inclusive growth, gender equality and achievement of the MDGs” (par.70-77). Project components on awareness raising, promoting accessibility and employment are the largest contributors to these goals.
Component one - the wide awareness raising campaign – is aimed at diminishing stigmatization and discrimination towards women and men with disabilities and overcoming their “invisibility”, both are necessary for the successful implementation of other project components. Component four – promoting employment – will enable to not only increase the economic and social well-being of people with disabilities, but also to ensure their input into economic and social development, and, in its own turn, to reach their full social integration. This will be possible only when barriers in the physical environment are absent (component three).
Additionally, the project contributes to key result no 1 of Country Programme Results and Resources Framework “Sustainable human development policies to improve livelihoods and access to social services by the poor developed and their implementation is monitored in accordance with MDGs”. Component two of the project, supporting the provision of rights of people with disabilities, is aimed at supporting the participation of organizations of people with disabilities in public and political spheres, their participation in decision making in the sphere of disability.
This component contributes to UNDP Strategic Plan 2008-2011 sub-sections on UNDP priority in democratic governance – «strengthening accountable and responsive governing institutions» (пар.88-89). The result of this activity will be a Joint Action Plan on improving the well being of people with disabilities aimed at increasing access to services. Finally, the component contributes to «grounding democratic governance in international principles» (пар. 90-91) – promotion of the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities is envisaged in the project activities.
The project will interact with UNDP project “Assisting the Government of Uzbekistan in formulation and implementation of ICT for development policy” on conducting computer literacy trainings for PWD and project “Capacity building for Internet Technologies Development and Promotion in Uzbekistan. Phase 2” on professional ICT training for PWD.
The project will also interact with UNDP projects «Promoting Energy Efficiency in Public Buildings in Uzbekistan» «Piloting Energy Efficient and Renewable Energy Solutions in Rural Health Clinics of Uzbekistan» on providing accessibility of pilot buildings of these projects for PWD.
To ensure success implementation of the projects its methodology is based on the following principles:
- Human Rights Based Approach emphasizes that all project activities aimed at supporting people with disabilities are considered not charity activities but rather the implementation of their equal rights guaranteed by law;
- Social model of disability means that disability is defined largely by social barriers (stigmatization, stereotypes, and barriers in physical environment, lack of access to services, education, and employment) rather than constraints connected to physical, psychological, and intellectual or sensor impairments of the person. Hence the project targets overcoming social constraints, rather than “correcting” the impairments of person with disabilities;
- Partnership approach ensures that all project activities are implemented in close partnership of state, non-state, international and non-profit organizations and mass-media. No activities or decisions in the frameworks of the project can be implemented without participation of people with disabilities – the rule “nothing about us without us”.
- Advocacy approach of the project is implemented through large scale campaign on public awareness. All activities and actions of the project contribute to the formation of positive attitude towards people with disabilities and promotion of necessary changes.
- General public, specialists of main social agencies, journalists, parliamentarians and authorities are more aware about disability issues;
- PWD and state organizations are empowered for joint work on improving the implementation of national legislation and promoting the ratification CRPWD;
- PWD movement within cities is facilitated by City Guides on accessible public buildings and enterprises; State organizations have tools on providing accessibility for PWD;
- Pilot model of social and legal assistance on employment PWD in 3 pilot employment centers (in Chilanzar district of Tashkent city and others to be determined) is implemented.