Rights of disabled people in Armenia highlighted on International Disability Day

Rights of disabled people in Armenia highlighted on International Disability Day

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Yesterday, May 5, the international community observed Disabled Rights Protection Day, which, along with the December 3 International Day of Persons with Disabilities, is meant to invite people’s attention to issues that people with special needs face in terms of their rights.

About 650 million people in the world live with different disabilities. In 3-million-strong Armenia alone the number of disabled people reaches 185,000, of whom more than 80,000 are children.

In Armenia there are numerous non-governmental organizations dealing with issues of disabled people.

One of them, Havat (Faith) NGO, embraces mothers of children with impaired hearing. The organization has operated since 1996 and has been involved in early revelation of children with hearing problems.

NGO head Susanna Zhamakochyan says that the global statistics of the past few years shows that two of each thousand children in the world are born deaf, two lose hearing before they turn two years old.

“As with any health problem, the sooner the overcoming of the consequences of this problem and rehabilitation start, the earlier a person with that problem will integrate into society, which benefits both the state and the person with these problems,” says Zhamakochyan.

Among numerous problems that people with hearing disorders in Armenia face is also the shortage or total absence of information accessible to them on television.

Although the Armenian Law on Television and Radio makes it compulsory that in developing their programming policies television companies consider the needs of people with hearing problems (at least one program for children and one news program for all must be supplied with a sign language or text in Armenian), only one of about two dozen TV stations actually offers such a sign language option. The public TV is not offering this option either. Some limit their fulfillment of this requirement to text options, which, according to specialists, is unacceptable because people with hearing problems are often not so literate as to be able to follow the running text and changing images simultaneously in order to comprehend the subject. Besides, it often happens on television that the text and current footage do not match, as it is impossible to include all information in the text option, which creates additional problems for viewers with hearing impairments.

It turns out that people with hearing problems are even deprived of the opportunity of watching television in Armenia.

Access, movement, education, employment and other issues continue to remain pressing for disabled people in Armenia.

Thus, less than 10 percent of people with special needs in Armenia have some sort of employment.

The Prkutyun (Salvation) daycare center for children and young people with mental problems is attended by 54 teenagers and young people (aged 13-32). The center operates different groups of interests, has a professional team working with children on general development and the main function of the center is to provide children with day care.

But at this NGO they, too, consider employment opportunities for young people with disabilities to be a priority issue, as they think that the stereotype that a disabled person cannot work with others as an equal has not been overcome in Armenia yet.

“A document issued to mentally retarded children by a relevant committee of experts testifying to their deep mental problems is already an obstruction in their subsequent search for jobs, as seeing this document that describes a mentally retarded condition as a disability employers refrain from hiring them,” says the center’s defectologist Ani Sargsyan.

Meanwhile, some efforts are noticeable in Armenia to help people with special needs integrate in society. Today some schools already offer inclusive education when children with limited mobility and children without such problems attend and study in the same environment. A number of top companies already hire people with disability, in particular Armenia’s leading mobile operator VivaCell-MTS today employs more than 30 people with disabilities, both in capital Yerevan and provinces, of whom 15 are wheelchair-bound. And Orange Armenia, another leading company in the telecom sector, has eight employees with disabilities.