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Public Defender’s Statement on International Day of Persons with Disabilities

International Day of Persons with Disabilities is marked on December 3 on the initiative of the United Nations. The purpose of this day is to promote the protection of the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities, as well as to raise public awareness in order to ensure their proper involvement in the social, political, economic and cultural life. Every year, the celebration of this day is associated with different themes. This year's theme is: "Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible, and sustainable post-COVID-19 world”.

This year, the Parliament of Georgia ratified the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which is important for ensuring the protection of the rights of these persons through international mechanisms.

The establishment of the Interagency Coordination Committee for the Implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by the Government of Georgia should be welcomed, which should facilitate the proper protection of the rights of persons with disabilities in the country.

Despite some positive steps, the realization of the rights of people with disabilities remains a problem in Georgia in various directions. Inter alia, the country has not introduced the social model of granting the disability status. The lack of standards, guarantees and mechanisms for full participation of persons with disabilities in the decision-making process at the national level is problematic. This year, part of persons with disabilities still remained outside the State's anti-crisis economic plan designed to respond to the challenges created by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Access to the physical environment, information, means of communication and various services is still a challenge for persons with disabilities. It is especially important to develop a national accessibility plan in a timely manner with the proper involvement of persons with disabilities after the approval of the national accessibility standards by the Government of Georgia.

It is important to realize the rights of children with disabilities, to promote their development, as well as to timely identify and respond to the incidents of violence. It should be noted that despite the increased rate of reporting the cases of child abuse in 2018-2021, the rate of reporting the cases involving children with disabilities, including girls with disabilities, is low. Emphasizing the needs relating to inclusive education is also essential, in particular, the need for taking effective measures to ensure access to educational space, educational resources and process, as well as to mobilize adequate number of inclusive education specialists in a timely manner.

Another problem is the geographical coverage of the services provided by the child care and social rehabilitation programme. The subprogrammes are implemented only in 15-20 municipalities and it is not possible to deliver them to children/persons with disabilities near their place of residence. Most of the services still have waiting lists. It should be noted that specialized institutions for children/persons with disabilities, given their size and regime, fail to meet the requirements of an environment close to the family conditions, which once again indicates the need for a complex and timely implementation of deinstitutionalization.

A number of systemic problems have been identified in terms of health care of people with disabilities during the pandemic, including the difficulties in accessing medical facilities and services and communicating with medical staff. Measures taken in the field of mental health are not enough either. It should be noted that the number of community services and their geographical coverage have not increased substantially. The standards for the prevention and control of the spread of the infection (COVID-19) caused by the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) are not properly met in psychiatric establishments or specialized facilities for children/persons with disabilities.

Challenges at the municipal level include the introduction/strengthening of needs-based services, as well as the proper functioning of councils for persons with disabilities. The activities carried out by the local governments during the coronavirus pandemic, in addition to the activities provided for in the budget, mainly include the provision of food to persons with disabilities and are not focused on their individual needs.

The Public Defender of Georgia calls on the State to take effective steps to ensure the proper realization of the rights of children and persons with disabilities, to raise public awareness, and to establish inclusive and sustainable society.

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