Public Defender’s Statement on World Autism Awareness Day
The UN General Assembly declared April 2 as the World Autism Awareness Day in 2008.
In 2020, the World Autism Awareness Day is focused on the problems encountered by persons with autism after reaching adulthood. These problems include participation in public life, involvement in decision making, access to higher education and employment, and independent living.
The UN Secretary General's message reads that this year’s observancetakes placein the midst ofa public health crisisunlike any other in our lifetimes—a crisis that places persons with autism at disproportionate risk as a result of thecoronavirusand its impact on society.
Persons with autism face similar problems in Georgia too. In addition, beyond the current situation in the country, it is a challenge for persons with autism to exercise their rights. Continuous provision of health care, habilitation/rehabilitation services tailored to their needs is inadequate. Programmes intended for children operate only in several municipalities and do not cover all target persons. They are not affordable or geographically accessible.
It is a challenge to properly engage persons with autism in the inclusive education process, to ensure quality and continuous preschool, general, vocational and higher education opportunities, or to provide them with material and human resources. Not enough measures are being taken to support persons with autism and their families. The stigma and prejudices in the society are problematic.
These problems have become even more serious in the wake of the new coronavirus epidemic in the country. The functioning of state and municipal programmes, including the habilitation sub-programme for children with autism spectrum disorders, as well as day care centers for persons with disabilities, have been suspended. The needs of all individuals are not fully considered in the remote learning process of school programmes. Consequently, there is a need to modify services and funding mechanisms, to manage the cases of persons disabilities in critical situations and to take social and psychological support measures.
The Public Defender of Georgia calls on the State to take effective steps to address the existing problems, facilitate idependent living of persons with autism, their education, development of vocational skills and employment opportunities, as well as their equal participation in the public life, by taking positive measures. In the current state of emergency, the State should make every effort to properly protect the rights of persons with autism.