Government Action on Disability Policy
A Global Survey
Part II - Government Replies as Country Profiles
Download 'Government Reports on the UN Standard Rules' as a PDF file (440 KB)
© Dimitris Michailakis 1997
Ministry of Health and Social Affairs (29 March 1996)
Compare with the following Country Report(s): ILSMH, WFD
The officially recognized disability policy in Norway is expressed in manifold ways: in law, in guidelines adopted by the Government, in guidelines adopted by a national disability council, in policy adopted by political parties and in policy adopted by NGOs. The emphasis - in descending scale - is on: accessibility measures, individual support, rehabilitation, prevention, anti-discrimination law.
The following actions have been taken by the Government conveying the message of full participation: The Standard Rules have been translated into Norwegian and printed in 5000 copies. In connection with the celebration of the International Day of Disabled Persons in 1995 there were advertisements in a large number of newspapers. The International day has been celebrated also in 1993 and 1994.
The rights of persons with disabilities are protected by special and general legislation. However, in Norway the main emphasis is on general legislation , including some special rights to persons with disabilities. There are both judicial; due process (legal remedy through courts) and non-judicial mechanisms; a Governmental body (administrative) to protect the rights of disabled people. There are even other administrative and other non-judicial bodies: an Ombudsman, not at the national level - but at the local or regional level in some places in Norway, usually called "Patient ombudsman".
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 Government adds, however, that the law concerning persons declared being without legal capacities, and the law concerning legal guardians (Guardianship Act) make restrictions for some people with mental disabilities. The following benefits are guaranteed by law to persons with disabilities: health and medical care, training, rehabilitation and counselling, financial security, participation in decisions affecting them. The Government states that as to independent living there is a project under the Government's Plan of Action for the Disabled giving grants to municipalities for trying out personal assistant schemes.
Since 1993 no special legislation has been enacted, but laws concerning kindergartens, education and technical aids have been changed. New regulations concerning "Supported employment" have been adopted.
There are laws and regulations requiring that: public places, the outdoor environment, land, sea and air transportation, and housing are made accessible. The Norwegian building Regulations demand accessibility to all public buildings owned by the Government and the municipalities, as well as buildings owned by private persons or companies. The Road Act provides guidelines on accessibility in the outdoor environment. The guidelines for land, sea and air transport are of non-binding character. The Norwegian State Housing Bank has given a special loan to build accessible houses/homes, called "life-time dwellings" as a result more than half of the new houses build with loans from this bank have this standard. Accessibility in the build environment is observed by a national authority, local Governments and the constructor. The following measures have been promoted by the Government to facilitate accessibility in the build environment: levelling off pavements, marking parking areas, installing automatic doors, lifts, accessible toilets, ensuring access in public places, improving accessibility in housing, financial incentives for accessibility measures when building and renovating housing, financial support for the costs of adapting private buildings, installing special lighting and using contrast colours for visually impaired and specially adapted motor vehicles. As stated by the Government special transport for disabled persons is provided for by the counties. The special transport services are performed either by taxi, or when necessary, by a specialized vehicle. Most users pay share of their own, usually either a fixed sum equalling the fare in mainstream public transport, or 20-25% of the actual taxi fare. For mainstream public transport a 50% discount is granted on the ticket fare to people on disability benefits. Special transport is available for: medical treatment, education, work, and recreational purposes. When planing to build accessible environments the most difficult obstacles are: attitudinal factors, economic/budgetary factors, technical factors, geographical and climatic factors, lack of planning and design-capacity, lack of knowledge, research and information and lack of user participation. There is a disability awareness component incorporated in the training of planners, architects and construction engineers, implying that they have to learn about the laws and regulations and what their meaning for the practical work.
Sign language for deaf people is recognized as the official language of deaf people, being used as the first language in education of deaf people and recognized as the main means of communication between deaf people and others. Government measures for encouraging media to make their services available for persons with disabilities include: text on TV, news in sign language Monday - Friday on TV, a few other TV-programmes interpreted on TV, a newspaper for easy reading called "Straight Talk" published every week. Government measures to make other forms of public information services accessible to people with disabilities include: text telephone for deaf people, all telephone numbers being available on data programmes in 1996, the e-mail system adjusted for blind persons, some art exhibitions made accessible for blind persons. 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, sign language interpretation being available only for major events, easy readers for persons with mental disabilities. Furthermore, some theatre plays have been interpreted in sign language, and blind persons have been helped to "see" the plays. There is a theatre-group consisting of deaf actors and the performances of the group are interpreted for hearing persons.
Organizations of persons with disabilities
The largest umbrella organization is the Norwegian Federation of Organizations of Disabled Persons (FFO) with 51 member organizations. In 1996 a co-operation forum has been established by three organizations, not being members of the FFO. These are the organizations for blind persons, physically disabled persons and persons with a mental handicap. FOSS is also a newly established umbrella organization for 20 small organizations of small and rather unknown disabilities. No legal provisions mandate the representatives of persons with disabilities to participate in policy-making and to work with Governmental institutions. Organizations are always consulted when laws and regulations with a disability aspect are being prepared. Consultations take place at both national, regional and local levels. The Government gives financial support to run organizations of persons with disabilities. Financial support is also given for research and for projects operated by the organizations themselves. Persons with disabilities participate to a very limited extent in Government, legislature, judiciary but participate to some extent in political parties and to a great extent in NGOs. In Norway 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 and measures, contribute to public awareness, provide services and promote/organize income generating activities.
Co-ordination of work
Since 1993 a Committee of State Secretaries from 7 Ministries is responsible for the development of a coherent policy for disabled persons. The committee is as such also the main co-ordinating body. The national co-ordinating committee is reporting to the Prime Minister's office. The co-ordinating committee includes representatives from Ministries only. Organizations of persons with disabilities, other NGOs, the private sector are not represented. The Government expects the committee to participate in policy development. The committee is also responsible for the implementation of the Government's Plan of Action, as well as the follow-up of the Standard Rules. The co-ordinating committee has had the following effects: Improved co-ordination of measures/programmes, improved legislation and integration of responsibility, a better dialogue in the disability field, more accurate planning, more effective use of resources, improved promotion of public awareness, and improved user participation.
The Government states that the rethinking of the approach to disability policy probably started as early as in the 1960ies, but the International Year of Disabled Persons in 1981 and the World Programme of Action 1983 - 92 represented the real starting-point for a new approach in political thinking and action.