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Round Table Discussion on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at the Novi Sad City Assembly

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Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of …IZ KRUGAVOJVODINA attend­ed a round table dis­cus­sion on the rights of per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties (PWDs) at the Novi Sad City Assem­bly today. The event enti­tled From a Patient to a Cit­i­zen, orga­nized by the Provin­cial Pro­tec­tor of Cit­i­zens – Ombuds­man, brought togeth­er over 50 rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Novi Sad and Vojvo­d­i­na PWDs’ orga­ni­za­tions, rel­e­vant local self-gov­ern­ment and provin­cial author­i­ties and their ser­vices for PWDs, as well as local ombudsper­sons.

The open­ing address on behalf of the orga­niz­er was that of Zoran Pavlović, PhD, Provin­cial Pro­tec­tor of Cit­i­zens – Ombuds­man. He said that the aim of the event was to strive for chang­ing of the social par­a­digm per­ceiv­ing PWDs pri­mar­i­ly through the med­ical prism of their dis­abil­i­ty, instead of approach­ing them from their human rights exer­cise and pro­tec­tion stand­point. Reit­er­at­ing that pub­lic space belongs to PWDs as much as any­body else, Ombuds­man Pavlović con­clud­ed that dis­abil­i­ty should not con­demn any­body to a low­er qual­i­ty of life.

Dam­jan Tatić, PhD, a mem­ber of the UN Com­mit­tee on the Rights of Per­sons with Dis­abil­i­ties and an expert with the Coun­cil of Europe, UNDP, UNICEF and ILO, remind­ed the audi­ence that PDWs are still a dis­crim­i­nat­ed social group, despite indi­vis­i­bil­i­ty and uni­ver­sal­i­ty of human rights. For com­pre­hend­ing rights of PWDs, as well as those of most social­ly vul­ner­a­ble groups, it is impor­tant to under­stand that they are pro­tect­ed glob­al­ly, by pro­scrib­ing stan­dards to be achieved, yet they are imple­ment­ed local­ly, where prob­lems with their exer­cise arise. Upon its adop­tion, the Con­ven­tion on the Rights of Per­sons with Dis­abil­i­ties was one of those almost instant­ly rat­i­fied by near­ly all UN mem­ber states. How­ev­er, imple­ment­ing its pro­vi­sions in prac­tice is still a chal­lenge even for devel­oped coun­tries. Mech­a­nisms for mon­i­tor­ing its imple­men­ta­tion are var­i­ous. Gen­er­al Com­ments to it, adopt­ed by the rel­e­vant UN Com­mit­tee, are just one of those mech­a­nisms, while the Com­ments writ­ten so far include those on women and girls with dis­abil­i­ties and on anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion. Cur­rent­ly, a Com­ment con­cern­ing orga­ni­za­tions of PWDs and inde­pen­dent bod­ies pro­tect­ing their rights is being final­ized. Future pri­or­i­ty top­ics will be pro­tect­ing women with dis­abil­i­ties from vio­lence, the issue of the so-called civ­il death (i.e. someone’s depri­va­tion of legal capac­i­ty), as well as dein­sti­tu­tion­al­iza­tion of gen­er­al and spe­cial­ized sup­port ser­vices used by PWDs. Reflect­ing on Pavlović’s remark that a pre­cise num­ber of PWDs in Ser­bia is unknown, Tatić con­firmed that sit­u­a­tion world­wide is not much bet­ter. The esti­mates are that PWDs make around 10 per­cent of the gen­er­al pop­u­la­tion glob­al­ly, where­as the cri­te­ri­on for includ­ing some­one in this group of cit­i­zens should be the bar­ri­ers PWDs are fac­ing while exer­cis­ing their rights, rather than the diag­no­sis deter­min­ing the kind and degree of their dis­abil­i­ty.

Pos­si­bil­i­ties and mech­a­nisms of imple­men­ta­tion of the rights of PWDs in the Autonomous Province of Vojvo­d­i­na and the City of Novi Sad, as well as the ser­vices avail­able to them, have been pre­sent­ed by Mil­ka Budakov, MD, PhD, Deputy Provin­cial Sec­re­tary for Social Pol­i­cy, Demo­graph­ics and Gen­der Equal­i­ty, Vera Grkavac, Head of the Wel­fare and Child­care Depart­ment of the City of Novi Sad, and Slav­i­ca Marković from the Novi Sad Milan Petro­vic Pri­ma­ry and High School. Josip Vlček, Pres­i­dent of the Coor­di­na­tion Board of Orga­ni­za­tions of PWDs of the City of Novi Sad, and Juli­jana Čatalinec from the PWDs’ Inde­pen­dent Liv­ing Cen­ter from Som­bor, pre­sent­ed the expe­ri­ence of their orga­ni­za­tions. Čatalinec shared her own expe­ri­ence of a woman with a dis­abil­i­ty liv­ing in a small local com­mu­ni­ty, advo­cat­ing for dein­sti­tu­tion­al­iza­tion of ser­vices for PWDs. She talked about the neces­si­ty to raise pub­lic aware­ness of the PWDs’ poten­tials to con­tribute to their own com­mu­ni­ties and soci­ety in gen­er­al, just like any oth­er cit­i­zens, by virtue of their per­son­al qual­i­ties. Denounc­ing cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly the claim that liv­ing costs of a PWD using per­son­al assis­tance is more cost­ly that her or his insti­tu­tion­al­iza­tion for life, Čatalinec point­ed to the neces­si­ty to change pub­lic per­cep­tion of dis­abil­i­ty also by using con­tem­po­rary, non-dis­crim­i­na­to­ry ter­mi­nol­o­gy in this field.

After Mar­i­ja Parn­jic­ki from the Novi Sad Ecu­meni­cal Human­i­tar­i­an Orga­ni­za­tion pre­sent­ed a good prac­tice of this organization’s project sup­port­ing four women with dis­abil­i­ties in their efforts to open their own non-prof­it com­pa­ny in order to ensure their own sus­tain­able income, the event end­ed in a dis­cus­sion focus­ing most­ly on list­ing issues and prob­lems faced by PWDs and their orga­ni­za­tions.

Pre­pared by: Anki­ca Dra­gin