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Proposal relating to Draft Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

On March 10, 2020, the Public Defender of Georgia, Nino Lomjaria, submitted a proposal to the Parliament of Georgia on the draft law on the rights of persons with disabilities and relating legislative amendments. The proposal was prepared with the involvement of the Consultative Council of Persons with Disabilities of the Public Defender of Georgia.

It should be noted that during the process of drafting the mentioned draft law, the Public Defender's Office sent opinions/comments to the Ministry of Justice of Georgia and the Government of Georgia several times. However, consideration of the opinions/comments turned out to be minimal, indicating that the involvement was only formal. In addition, the Public Defender emphasizes the need for a transparent and accessible format of the drafting process and active involvement of persons with disabilities/their legal representatives and organizations.

The Public Defender considers that the draft law needs both legal and terminological-thematic improvements. In most cases, regulations are declarative in nature and no specific safeguards are spelled out. The document is not explicitly based on the social model of disability. In addition, despite the challenges in the country, it does not emphasize the importance of maintaining segregated statistics at central or local level as much as possible or collecting the research data.

The bill leaves behind important issues such as: specific needs of women with disabilities and the obligations of the State in this regard; regulations to be taken into account in the context of freedom of movement and citizenship; steps to be taken in the area of mental health, including in the context of developing/expanding community-based services, outside inpatient care; full access, including geographical access, to health services; ownership and inheritance rights of persons with disabilities, management of their own financial affairs by themselves, equal access to bank loans, mortgages and other financial credits.

The Public Defender assesses negatively the fact that the draft Law of Georgia on the rights of persons with disabilities does not provide a definition of an organization of persons with disabilities or mechanisms (economic or other) to be used by the State to support the functioning of such organizations.

The document does not fully regulate the issues of inclusive education, social protection, non-discrimination, individual mobility, maintenance of statistics or accessibility. In particular, the document does not provide for sufficient mechanisms for the identification of persons (children) with disabilities left beyond formal education, while the provisions relating to social protection are blanket and are not in line with the requirements of Article 28 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (adequate standard of living and social protection). With regard to non-discrimination, the draft law does not elaborate on the refusal of reasonable accommodation, and it does not integrate issues relating to affordability of mobility aids and assistive technology for persons with disabilities, development of mobility skills and support for the organizations producing mobility aids and assistive technology. Apart from the fact that the draft law contains terminological inaccuracies with regard to accessibility, it is not harmonized with the amendments made to the Georgian Code of Spatial Planning, Architectural and Construction Activity or the Administrative Offences Code in 2020. In addition, the draft law does not regulate in detail access to information, communication or various services for persons with disabilities.

The timely transition to a new assessment system is essential for the introduction of relevant services for persons with disabilities and therefore the Public Defender negatively assesses the fact that the transitional provisions provide for a long timeframe (1 January 2023) for the approval of a plan of actions to be taken in this direction.

The Public Defender, considering Article 33 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, believes that it is important that the function of the Public Defender as a mechanism for promoting, protecting and monitoring the implementation of the UN Convention be emphasized in the Organic Law of Georgia on the Public Defender.

In addition, the Public Defender hopes that the Parliament of Georgia will consider the comments submitted and will adopt the kind of law that will promote the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities.

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