On 2 December, the Committee on Human and Minority Rights and Gender Equality held a joint sitting with the Committee on Labour, Social Issues, Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction with the topic “The Future is Accessible”, to mark the International Day of Disabled Persons.
The Chairperson of the Committee on Human and Minority Rights and Gender Equality Jasmina Karanac said that the issue of accessibility and empowerment of persons with disabilities should be viewed from the aspect of human rights. “Persons with disabilities have the right to the full enjoyment of human rights and discrimination against them is unacceptable and prohibited. Ensuring accessibility is crucial because that is the only way persons with disabilities can exercise the right to independent living”, said Karanac. Shew said that the National Assembly had passed a great many laws concerning the inclusion of persons with disabilities whose visibility has been improved, however, persons with disabilities remain a very vulnerable category facing numerous problems. Accessibility is something that deserves particular attention because its elimination would remove many obstacles and allow persons with disabilities access to their surroundings, transportation, information, communication and public services and eliminate discrimination at large.
The Chairperson of the Committee on Labour, Social Issues, Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Milanka Jevtovic Vukojicic said that Serbia has celebrated the International Day of Disabled Persons, proclaimed in 1992, regularly since 2007. 15% of the world’s population lives with some type of disability and society should work toward overcoming and eliminating obstacles. The obstacles persons with disabilities come up against are many including their physical surroundings, information and communication technology, to ones stemming from legislation and social conventions, and discrimination. Experience has shown that persons with disabilities often run into problems in society and access to services, education, employment and healthcare. “Experience has shown that once obstacles to inclusion are eliminated and persons with disabilities are given the chance to take part in social life, it benefits the entire community”, said Jevtovic Vukojicic. She added that the goal is to, in future, enable persons with disabilities to enter any building, institution, museum, without thinking about obstacles or discrimination.
Biljana Barosevic, acting assistant minister of labour, employment, veteran and social affairs, spoke about what was done in 2019 to facilitate the day-to-day lives of persons with disabilities. 77 ramps were installed in 34 local self-governments, accompanied by 37 adaptations, reconstructions, facility furnishing and procurement of equipment for associations of persons with disabilities on the territory of the Republic of Serbia. The working conditions for the members of these associations have also been improved in 23 local self-governments, tactile signs were put up in Sombor and Subotica, and a great many other activities were conducted to improve the position of persons with disabilities.
Suzana Paunovic, acting director of the Government’s Office for Human and Minority Rights, spoke about the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities saying that the last few years have seen a qualitative improvement in its implementation. The last Report submitted to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in 2016, received 37 recommendations to be realized by 2020. Since then the Government had set up a body to monitor the implementation of these recommendations.
Ombudsman Zoran Pasalic said that the regular annual Report states that accessibility, as one of the most basic prerequisites for a full and equal participation of persons with disabilities in all spheres of social life, remains underdeveloped, despite a solid legislative and strategic framework.
Dragana Jovanovic Arijas, member of the Government’s Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit, and Ivanka Jovanovic, Executive Director of the National Organization of Persons with Disabilities, also spoke at the sitting.
The keynote addresses were followed by a discussion between the representatives of associations of persons with disabilities, MPs and relevant ministries and organizations.
The sitting was chaired by Committee Chairperson Jasmina Karanac and attended by the members and deputy members of the two committees.