The issue of the needs of people with disabilities was discussed during the Heinrich Boell Foundation’s public event held at Press Café in Batumi on July 10.
In his speech, Koba Nadiradze, Director of the Youth Center for Independent Life, emphasized the need for changing terminology in legislation and social attitudes towards people with disabilities. Participants agreed that rights of disabled people are still violated. This includes their right to vote, since election precincts are not appropriately equipped and adapted to meet their needs. In general, streets and roads are still disorganized, and public and private buildings lack special entrances. As Maia Katamadze, Director of the Center for Education, Development and Employment, stated, her organization tries to make improvements, but positive changes occur very slowly.
People with disabilities also face challenges in their access to education. Referencing statistics on blind children, Zaur Devadze, Head of Batumi branch of Union of Blind People of Georgia, stated that out of 300 blind people in Ajara, only one is now educated in a special needs school located in Tbilisi. Parents cannot or do not want to send their children to school, preferring to keep their bind children close to them. Lado Mgaloblishvili, Director of Civil Society for Human Rights, believes that in order for the government to ensure protection of rights of people with disabilities, it is necessary to ratify the 2006 Special Convention. He noted that Georgia signed the convention in 2009, but in the last three years, Parliament has failed to ratify it. According to Koba Nadiradze, this convention mandates creation of legal guarantees for the state care of people with disabilities. He believes that the way to resolve this problem is to change state policy towards this group, along with media attention to raise awareness of this issue.
Debates were held within the framework of EU-funded project: “Combating Hate Speech in Georgia: Litmus Test for Social Tolerance and Human Rights”