Friday 19 July 2019 | 02:55

“It is our big joint work”

25.06.2019  |  Society   |  Yauheniya Burshtyn, EuroBelarus,  
“It is our big joint work” Several participants of the "Agenda 50" campaign at the final Regional Development Forum. Photo by: Facebook of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

It is impossible to change life in cities just in three years (the timeline of the “Agenda 50” campaign implementation). But changing the structure of relationships in local communities is possible.

Three years ago, the “Agenda 50” campaign was launched with a survey of the potential of 20 Belarusian cities regarding the readiness to implement the principles of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The survey confirmed that local authorities have been shaping their agendas by focusing mainly on plans and budgetary frameworks developed by higher authorities, rather than on real needs and needs “on the ground”. This significantly reduced the possibility of participating in shaping the policy on disability of other subjects - public organizations, businesses, interested people and people with disabilities. Another common problem was that all of them almost didn’t interact with each other at all - in such a situation, there was absolutely nothing to say about accessibility. Often people with disabilities did not know about their rights, about certain services. In contrast to the Convention's approach, in most cases, the organization of leisure activities, forms of education and employment for people with disabilities is designed so that it excludes them from public life rather than contributes to the expansion of their social connections and relationships. For children with disabilities separate holidays and concerts are organized, separate classes for learning or homeschooling is offered, special enterprises are created where only people with disabilities work, etc. Such an approach to disability issues is contrary to the Convention signed by our country. With the aim to start changing something in this area, several Belarusian and European public organizations, with the support of the European Union, launched the “Agenda 50” campaign, which has been implemented for three years in five pilot cities selected in the course of the survey. Now the project, which main results was the five local agendas’ creation, as well as the change in thinking and interaction of actors who work with disability issues, has been finalized. Oksana Shelest, senior analyst at the Centre for European Transformation who conducted a study on the results of the campaign, told about the campaign outputs.

Attitudes to the problems of people with disabilities change

According to Oksana Shelest, one of the major positive changes in small cities that can be observed in recent years has been a change in attitudes towards people with disabilities. The understanding of the problems of people with mental disabilities, multiple disabilities, etc. is expanding. The concept of a barrier-free environment gradually goes beyond ramps, although it is still primarily associated with accessibility for people using wheelchairs. Issues related to overcoming physical barriers for visually impaired and hearing impaired people are poorly addressed at the local level, but at least these are talked about.

Oksana Shelest. Photo by "EuroBelarus" Information Service

The relevance of problems related to education and employment is increasing. If three years ago, the perception of this problem was most often reduced to providing barrier-free environment in educational institutions, now the issues of preparation for the organization and perception of inclusive education are being analyzed by teachers, parents and children - both by parents of children with disabilities and parents of other schoolchildren.

A separate issue is training of public institutions staff at least in those areas where they most often encounter people with disabilities. Many complaints are raised in the sphere of medical services, education, consumer services. Problems remain in the distribution of benefits, social guarantees and assistance, as well. For example, the state provides means of rehabilitation, but at the same time few people think about the right of their choice by those who have special needs.

After all, we have: healthy people once decided for everybody, and that’s it! Now, if a person “breaks down” – well, the medicine has done its job, and that’s all, then it’s not its concern. And here it is necessary that the Territorial Social Services Centers, social services, employment service, and who else is there, come to this person, and decide together with him or her how to build the life further. And we have it this way: a person leaves the hospital, here you have a standard set of what you are entitled to have. And maybe he or she does not need nothing from this set? May be he or she does have other problems at all? ”, researchers cite people with disabilities.

And yet the most problematic issue remains the sphere of employment. Difficulties on this path are caused by everything related to the Minsk City Medical and Rehabilitation Expert Commission, labour recommendations, list of professions. In small towns, such problems are encountered almost everywhere, but there are no mechanisms for solving them. This is certainly not the only, but a very serious barrier to independent living for people with disabilities, which requires consideration at national level.

Did the principle of “nothing for us without us” work out?

The most active persons in the creation of local agendas in all towns and cities were representatives of territorial social service centers and public organizations working with people with disabilities. Local authorities involved in the work process with more or less intensity, participated in the meetings on the creation of local agendas. But non-profile public organizations, as well as representatives of businesses and church, were practically not engaged.

Interestingly, social service workers changed their perception of the problems which they work with in the course of the campaign.

Making a start from people and their problems is like such a simple thought in this Convention of yours. And by the way, this changes radically the whole work”, the researchers cite them.

Although public consultations and information campaigns took place in all cities in the development of agendas, people with disabilities participated in this process sporadically. The only exceptions were representatives of public organizations and social services who had disabilities themselves and thus actively participated in the development of local agendas. Most often, the role of the campaign main target audience was reduced to the fact that it provided feedback. The reason for this is the high level of passivity, dependent attitudes, as well as the “trained helplessness” of these people themselves. Such attitudes are still typical for most people with disabilities, and those who were able to overcome social and physical barriers and achieve a certain level of self-realization either begin to engage in social activities themselves or ignore any attempts to involve them in the processes of discussion and solving common problems in a city or area, is noted in the study.

New skills and new challenges

According to Oksana Shelest, in different cities it was necessary to overcome various barriers in order to change the relationship between all the campaign participants. Minimal changes in this plan took place in Valożyn – there, before the start of the project, organizations working with disability issues were closely linked with each other. But in Babruysk, Stoubtsy and Stolin, researchers noted the development of ties and the strengthening of relations between relevant NGOs and various state social institutions. In Ščučyn, there was a different structure of relations between the leadership of Territorial Social Services Center and the authorities, so new formats of interaction and the inclusion of disability issues in regional development plans were found.

We’ve decided that this is our big joint work between public organizations and social services. We all usually sit and wait for something from the executive committee. And here we can come to them - and show how much we can contribute to solving these problems, that we do not want to get something from them - but we are ready to contribute our strength, our work to solving the problems. And now the dialogue can begin with this”, say participants from Babruysk.

Oksana Shelest made accent on some of the problems and challenges that campaign participants still need to work on. For example, an adequate assessment of local problems and requests, setting priorities (often stereotypical judgments are made as problems, which in practice are not relevant for the region). What remains important is engaging different subjects into the local planning processes, who in one way or another deal with issues related to the quality of life of people with disabilities. This also includes expanding the circle of stakeholders and strengthening social responsibility of local communities. The search for resources to accomplish the tasks set and achieve the goals will always be relevant.

In general, working with local agendas and the Convention led to changes in the perceptions of campaign participants on how to approach the problems of people with disabilities, and the boundaries of goal setting were expanded. And the main thing that all participants understood is that the documents they have created are not the end, but only the beginning of work on implementing the values of the Convention into reality.

***

The material was prepared in the framework of the international project "Rights of People with Disabilities: agenda for Belarus (Agenda 50)". 

The campaign "Agenda 50" is being implemented with the support of the European Union in partnership with the Fundacja TUS (Poland)and the PA "European House" (Denmark)Office for the Rights of People with DisabilitiesInternational Consortium "EuroBelarus" and Center for European Transformation participate in the campaign implementation in Belarus.

Other news section «Society»

“It is our big joint work”
“It is our big joint work”
It is impossible to change life in cities just in three years (the timeline of the “Agenda 50” campaign implementation). But changing the structure of relationships in local communities is possible.
The “Agenda 50” campaign was finalised by the Regional Development Forum
The “Agenda 50” campaign was finalised by the Regional Development Forum
The Forum was devoted not so much to the outputs as to the challenges and prospects after the creation and signing of local agendas.
Mikhail Matskevich: How to create a local agenda and make it a problem solving tool
Mikhail Matskevich: How to create a local agenda and make it a problem solving tool
To achieve changes, you need to be interested in them and stop pinning all hopes on the state.
“If a person cannot leave the apartment, he or she does not need an accessible Opera House”
“If a person cannot leave the apartment, he or she does not need an accessible Opera House”
In Stoubcy, they talked about universal design and conducted pilot monitoring of two urban sites accessibility.
Local agenda in Valożyn: mission accomplished
Local agenda in Valożyn: mission accomplished
"Specificity is different, but the priority is general." In Valożyn, a local strategy for the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was signed.
How Ščučyn was proceeding towards the solution of problems of people with disabilities
How Ščučyn was proceeding towards the solution of problems of people with disabilities
The campaign "Agenda 50" was summed up in Ščučyn, and a local action plan for the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was signed there.
A program to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities was designed in Stolin
A program to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities was designed in Stolin
The regional center has become the second city in Belarus where the local plan for the implementation of the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was signed.
“Agenda 50” in Belarus: from strategies to implementation
“Agenda 50” in Belarus: from strategies to implementation
Representatives of the campaign “Agenda 50” from five pilot cities discussed achievements in creating local agendas for implementing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
In Stoubcy, a local action plan for the implementation of the Convention was signed
In Stoubcy, a local action plan for the implementation of the Convention was signed
It is noteworthy that out of the five pilot cities, Stoubcy was the last to join the campaign “Agenda 50”, but the first one to complete the preparation of the local agenda.
The monitoring of accessibility was presented in Stolin
The monitoring of accessibility was presented in Stolin
On May 28, the city hosted a presentation of the results of the project "Equal to Equal" which was dedicated to monitoring the barrier-free environment in the city.
“They think if the legs don’t function, neither functions the head.”
“They think if the legs don’t function, neither functions the head.”
In Babruysk, wheelchair users are fighting discrimination.
The real work of the Convention depends on all interested communities and organizations
The real work of the Convention depends on all interested communities and organizations
What results has the campaign "Agenda 50" given, what helps to implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the regions?
The Convention is a fight against fears, barriers and stigmata
The Convention is a fight against fears, barriers and stigmata
Experts in Valožyn have determined that the quality of people’s life depends on their awareness.
The Convention should become a "living tool”, rather than remaining just an ordinary document
The Convention should become a "living tool”, rather than remaining just an ordinary document
On March 3, members of the campaign "Agenda 50" from different Belarusian cities met in Minsk. The campaign is aimed at the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The main thing is one’s personal motivation for full active life (PHOTOS)
The main thing is one’s personal motivation for full active life (PHOTOS)
There are being implemented three projects under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities campaign in the city of Babruysk.
One man does not make a team, but united we are able to do a lot
One man does not make a team, but united we are able to do a lot
In Ščučyn, people with disabilities learned to be leaders and to advocate their interests.
Barrier-free environment – it is not a ramp, but a means of independence (PHOTOS)
Barrier-free environment – it is not a ramp, but a means of independence (PHOTOS)
In Stolin, social organizations and local authorities are implementing a project aimed at independent living of persons with disabilities, and creating local agenda for the district.
Polish experts: We say “equality” and you say “inclusion”
Polish experts: We say “equality” and you say “inclusion”
Will creation of local agendas be an effective tool in ensuring rights of persons with disabilities in Belarus, just as it was in Poland?
“It is impossible to talk about persons with disabilities separately from the rest of the country”
“It is impossible to talk about persons with disabilities separately from the rest of the country”
The understanding that all people have equal rights has been the basis for social changes, including those related to disability issues, in Poland.
Andrei Yahorau: Everything depends on people in the regions
Andrei Yahorau: Everything depends on people in the regions
A social project "Equal to Equal" has been launched in Stolin district under the campaign "Agenda 50".
Gintautas Mažeikis: The relation of political field and arena in the framework of information war

In his report, philosopher Gintautas Mažeikis discusses several concepts that have been a part of the European social and philosophical thought for quite a time.

“It is our big joint work”

It is impossible to change life in cities just in three years (the timeline of the “Agenda 50” campaign implementation). But changing the structure of relationships in local communities is possible.

Shhh! Belarus Wants You to Think It’s Turning Over a New Leaf

Minsk’s muddled media clampdown could jeopardize warming of relations with the West.

Mikhail Matskevich: How to create a local agenda and make it a problem solving tool

To achieve changes, you need to be interested in them and stop pinning all hopes on the state.