04 Dec President’s address on the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2021
3 December around the world is celebrated as the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD). This year’s theme is the “Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible, and sustainable post-COVID-19 world”. 2021 has become a remarkable year for Uzbekistan as we finally ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
A veteran disability rights activist Farkhad Abdurakhmanov, a deputy chairperson at the Association of Disabled People of Uzbekistan, told that this year has also become special as for the first time in the history of independent Uzbekistan the President himself addressed the nation on the occasion of IDPD-2021 and promised a whole system of support for disabled people. Below I provide the analysis of the important measures mentioned in the President’s address.
The first important point is that when referring to disabled people in Uzbekistan, President Mirziyoyev addressed “almost a million of our fellow citizens with disabilities.” For a long time, the actual number of disabled people in Uzbekistan has been underestimated and based on the administrative data of registered people at Medical Labour Expert Commissions (VTEK).
It is still hard to believe that only about 2% of our total population are disabled as according to WHO the global disability prevalence is estimated at about 15% while 80% of disabled people are living in low and middle-income countries.
Unfortunately, there is no reliable data about the real number of all disabled children and adults in Uzbekistan while the State Statistics Committee refused to include disability questions in the 2023 census.
Undoubtedly, ‘the state policy to support disabled citizens and to create all the necessary conditions for them has been raised to a new level’ after Shavkat Mirziyoyev came to power in late 2016. This year has proved after the new Law “On the Rights of Persons with Disabilities” came into force in mid-January 2021 and ratification of the CRPD in June 2021. The President’s speech contained internationally acknowledged concepts like ‘inclusive development’, ‘equal rights’, ‘social model of disability’, ‘participation in public and political life’.
President mentioned that over the past 2 years, the number of recipients of pensions and benefits for disabled people has almost doubled, or by 100 thousand people. A system has been established to provide targeted assistance to disabled people in all regions of the country within the framework of the national movement “Kindness and Support” and the system of work on the “iron”, “women’s”, “youth” notebooks.
The address mentioned that Uzbekistan would adopt and implement a special programme aimed at creating additional conditions so that disabled people feel like an integral part of society. It is expected that the essence and content of this programme would be consonant with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the key task in it will be the transition from a medical to a social approach to determining disability.
“From now on, we should not look at disabled people as “people with problems”, and in order to expand their opportunities, first of all, we will improve the socio-economic system,” it was not by the President.
The programme will pay special attention to the following issues:
Firstly, young disabled people will have equal opportunities to receive a quality education at all levels.
In particular, all conditions will be created so that from the next school year, 24%, and in 2025 – 40% of children with special educational needs will be able to study in mainstream schools. In addition, the number of resource centers for inclusive education will increase 14 times and will exceed 200.
Secondly, work will intensify to increase the income of disabled people through vocational training and the creation of decent jobs for them. For this purpose, special training programmes for modern professions will be developed. In addition, everyone will be given the opportunity to learn a profession at the expense of the state, and subsidies for these purposes will be doubled.
When hiring disabled citizens for a job suitable for them in government bodies of all levels, such persons will be given priority, and organisations will be provided with appropriate benefits. In addition, entrepreneurs’ initiatives for the recruitment of disabled people will receive support, and incentive measures will be taken. In particular, such entrepreneurs and recruited citizens will be provided with additional tax breaks and government subsidies.
Third, systematic work will continue to protect the health of disabled people and provide them with medical services.
Fourth, a “barrier-free” environment will be created to promote active participation of disabled citizens in the social, economic and political life of the country. Moreover, disabled people will be provided with subsidies for the purchase of housing in the new Yangi Uzbekiston areas, being built in all regions of our country, and concessional loans for improving housing conditions.
Most importantly, a system of constant dialogue between leaders of all levels and responsible persons of state bodies with disabled people will be established to study and solve their problems. Finally, the President’ address promised that the government would continue mobilising all forces and opportunities to support disabled people as “after all, they are full citizens of our country. In Uzbekistan, no one will be left without care and attention.”