Government Action on Disability Policy
A Global Survey
Part II - Government Replies as Country Profiles
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© Dimitris Michailakis 1997
Ministry of Foreign Affairs (26 February 1996)
Compare with the following Country Report(s): ILSMH, WBU
The officially recognized disability policy in Estonia is expressed in law, in guidelines adopted by the Government and by a National Disability Council and in policy adopted by NGOs. The emphasis - in descending scale - is on: rehabilitation, accessibility, individual support, anti-discrimination law, prevention.
Since the adoption of the Standard Rules the Government has initiated and supported a campaign about the social integration of disabled persons, lasting from June 1996 to May 1997.
The rights of persons with disabilities are protected by a combination of special and general legislation. The judicial mechanism adopted for the protection of disabled persons rights is due process (legal remedy through courts). There is a Governmental body (administrative) for the same purpose.
The general legislation applies to all categories of disabled persons with respect to: education, employment, the right to marriage, the right to parenthood/family, political rights, access to court-of-law, right to privacy, property rights. The law guarantees the following benefits to persons with disabilities: medical/health care, training, rehabilitation and counselling, financial security, employment, independent living, and participation in decisions affecting them. Since the adoption of the Standard Rules the following laws have been enacted: The Unemployment Assistance Law (Dec. 1995), The Social Welfare Act (Apr. 1995), The Income Tax Act (Jan. 1994), The Child Allowances Act (Feb. 1994), The Working Hours and Days Act (March 1994).
There are rules to ensure accessibility in the build environment requiring accessibility in schools, hospitals, clinics, community centres, rehabilitation centres, outdoor environment, land, sea and air transportation, and housing. The supervisory function in ensuring that accessibility is observed rests on local Governments and the constructor. The measures taken by the Government to facilitate accessibility in the build environment are: levelling off pavements, marking parking areas, installing automatic doors, installing or widening lifts and installing accessible toilets, measures to ensure access to public places, improving accessibility in housing, some financial support for the costs of adapting private buildings to the needs of disabled persons, and using contrast colours for visually impaired. The law provides for the following special transport arrangements for disabled persons: compensation of gasoline for private transport, persons with severe disability having the right to free public transport, persons with less severe disability pay half price in public transport. Since 1995 in some municipalities there is also special taxi service. Special transport service is available for the following purposes: medical treatment, education, work, recreational purpose. A special taxi can be ordered for all purposes (where the service is available). According to the Government states that the most difficult obstacles when planning to build accessible environments are the following: attitudinal factors, economic/budgetary factors, lack of knowledge, research and information, lack of co-operation from other organizations/institutions, lack of enforcement mechanisms. There is a disability awareness component in the training of architects and construction engineers.
Sign language is used as the first language in education of deaf people. There are no measures for encouraging media to make their information services accessible. However, there are Government measures to make other forms of public information accessible. The following services are provided in order to facilitate information and communication between persons with disabilities and other persons: literature in Braille/tape, news magazines on tape/Braille, and sign language interpretation being available for major events.
Organizations of persons with disabilities
There is a national umbrella organization where twenty-one organizations are represented. Legal provisions mandate the representatives of persons with disabilities to participate in policy-making and to work with Governmental institutions. When laws and/or regulations with a disability aspect are being prepared, the views of organizations of disabled persons are sometimes taken into account. This occurs at all levels: the national, regional, and local level. The Government gives financial and organizational/logistic support to persons with disabilities. Disabled persons participate in Government to a very limited extent, in legislature, judiciary and political parties to some extent and in NGOs to a great extent. The disabled persons' organizations have the role to: advocate rights and improved services, mobilize persons with disabilities, identify needs and priorities, participate in the planning, implementation and evaluation of services, contribute to public awareness, and provide services.
Co-ordination of work
There is a national co-ordinating committee reporting to the Prime Minister's office. The committee includes representatives from the following Ministries: Finance, Health and Social Affairs, Employment, Education, but also representatives from organizations of disabled persons, other NGOs and from a diaconal organization. The Government expects the committee to participate in policy development. The co-ordinating committee has had the following effects: improved co-ordination, improved legislation, improved integration of responsibility, a better dialogue in the disability field, more effective use of resources, and improved promotion of public awareness.
As to the question whether the adoption of the Standard Rules has led to a rethinking of the approach to disability policy, the Government states that "there was no special disability policy before".
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