Gov’t Seeks Ways to Support Citizens with Disabilities

ASTANA – The issue of supporting the equality of citizens with disabilities was discussed at the sitting of the government chaired by Prime Minister Serik Akhmetov on May 31.

“In general, due to consistent social policy and attention given the disabled, important progress is traceable over recent years,” Head of the Shyrak Association of Women with Disabilities Lyazzat Kaltayeva said, referring to new benefits, new services, laws and measures to ensure gender equality that affect individuals with disabilities.

Specifying the issues, Minister of Labour and Social Protection Serik Abdenov pointed to a multi-level system of support for people with disabilities, such as social benefits and insurance payments, prosthetic orthopaedic care, equipment for the deaf and blind, wheelchairs, personal assistance and sign language interpretation services. As of the end of 2012, more than 96,000 citizens of Kazakhstan, or 88 percent of the total number of people in need, were provided with the required equipment and assistance.

“People with disabilities are assisted with domestic services, filling out and filing of entitlement documents for benefits and allowances and are given psychological and educational assistance,” Abdenov added.

The development of a competitive market was initiated through the involvement of nongovernmental organisations. Today, in total, 47 NGOs serve the needs of 2,000 children; in 2009 there were only four such NGOs. However, for all that, Kazakhstan’s level of social and medical support to people with disabilities still runs short of developed nations. The socialisation level of people with disabilities is still low; they have very little chance of getting a job, although the Employment 2020 programme is meant to ensure the provision of education and employment to such citizens.

To solve the situation, a law on social jobs is in development and the Employment 2020 programme is to be expanded in the area of training and employment support for people with disabilities.

Lyazzat Kaltayeva said that a special environment needs be built for disabled people, for their learning and employment, so they do not feel themselves to be a burden on society. People in wheelchairs are an uncommon sight, not because there are few of them, but because they are simply unable to get out of the house because of a lack of infrastructure; ramps, for instance. The prime minister criticised the quality of existing ramps, which he said are hazardous to able-bodied people, let alone the physically handicapped. “Houses built without them [ramps] must not be accepted by the acceptance commissions,” he demanded.

The certification of buildings revealed that the social infrastructure of 7,000 out of 9,100 assessed buildings does not meet the accessibility requirements.

“Local executive bodies must pay particular attention to access for people with disabilities to accommodation, education, health, culture and sports facilities,” Prime Minister Akhmetov insisted.

“A total of 102 special taxis are currently available in the country, which is only seven or eight per region, and that is not enough. Public transport must be provided with seats for the disabled and lifts at railway and bus terminals for the boarding of people in wheelchairs should be installed,” Akhmetov instructed the ministries of regional development and of transport and communications.

“At the same time, the installation of the right ramps alone will not solve the problem. The needs of all disabled persons must be addressed, and this requires the involvement of several ministries, local executive bodies and necessary inclusions in regional economic planning, as it often appears that locally such matters are treated cavalierly,” Kaltayeva complained.

“If we cultivate a tolerant attitude towards people with disabilities from childhood, maybe construction developers in pursuit of profit and deadlines will not, in the future, overlook the needs of the disabled. At the same time, it is necessary to inform disabled people of the accomplishments being made in this direction,” she continued.

“Within the framework of the ongoing social modernisation programme, the government is considering a draft nationwide concept of social development up to 2030, and Kazakhstan has to meet the international obligations of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. To this end, it is necessary to create socio-economic conditions that will allow each physically disadvantaged person an active public life,” the prime minister concluded.

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