June 14 is National Disability Day in Georgia

June 14 in Georgia is Disability Day. The law was adopted in 1995, officially marking the day and introducing protections for people with disabilities. Georgia, however, remains an extremely difficult environment for people with disabilities, especially outside the capital.

Today the Public Defender of Georgia released a statement: “The Public Defender annually speaks about the rights of these persons, which has remained a challenge in Georgia for years. Among the challenges is the establishment of an institutional mechanism responsible for implementing and coordinating the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Despite the recommendations developed through the involvement of an international expert, the mechanism has not yet been established. The process of ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention is also delayed.

Among the problems are realization of the right of persons with disabilities to health and social protection, provision of adequate rehabilitation/habilitation services for children and adults with disabilities, realization of reproductive and sexual health rights for women/girls with disabilities.

An important challenge is access to the physical environment. It is problematic for persons with disabilities to enjoy public facilities, educational institutions, municipal transport or road infrastructure throughout the country.

More efforts are needed to ensure the full involvement of children with disabilities in the educational process, to ensure opportunities for getting quality education in a safe and secure environment, as well as continuity of education.

Protection and implementation of the right of persons with disabilities to work is still problematic. The participation of women with disabilities in the political and public life of the country is low. They are less involved in the decision-making process.

It is important to raise public awareness regarding the rights of persons with disabilities and change wrong attitudes towards these persons.

The grounds for criticism are also the issues related to the rights of persons with disabilities according to the Government’s Human Rights Action Plan (2018-2020), including the absence of financial support for the measures envisaged by this document, which raises questions about its effective implementation.

The Public Defender once again urges the authorities to timely and effectively resolve the existing problems in order to ensure adequate protection of the rights of persons with disabilities and their involvement and equal participation in the public life.”

Iko Iakobidze, who performed on Georgia’s Dancing with the Stars in a wheelchair, also shared his views on the day in a Facebook post, saying “Today is June 14. Perhaps many of you do not have anything to say about this date but I would like to tell you that...the law that was adopted in Georgia on June 14, 1995, [declared] that people with disabilities are the same as those of you, we have the same rights as you and yes, we are all equal in every aspect!” he continued, “After 23 years, what has changed? (I will not be ungrateful and I will make that change, but with ‘turtle steps’). We urge the US-Europe to seek to integrate [Georgia] into the EU and NATO, but we forget that the most important thing is that this will not happen if all human rights are not protected!!!...We are all victims of discrimination and sometimes even inhuman treatment!!! No one remembers the obligations and responsibilities of all, everyone forgets all about the heart and the ear, or the promises of others. And we are already in the 23rd year since we have been deemed worthy to fight and live in the society! Is it so difficult to learn, appreciate, love and respect each other?”

By Samantha Guthrie

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14 June 2018 17:23