Russia marks International Day of Disabled Persons

On Tuesday, Russia, like the rest of the world, is celebrating the International Day of Disabled Persons. Over the past 10 years the number of disabled persons in Russia has increased by 6 million people. Today the Ministry of Labour and Social Development reports 10 million disabled workers living in Russia, over a half of whom are of working age. The proportion of persons who belong to the first and the second disability groups has reached 75 percent. There are over 592,000 disabled children.

The Ministry of Labour notes that the Government has been of late improving its treatment of disabled persons. The Government does not restrict its activity to providing social security for the disabled alone, but aims at ensuring the equality of opportunities and conditions for the disabled to lead a normal life, lifting obstacles for adequate participation of the disabled in the economic and social life of the country.

Since 1992 Russia has adopted a number of completely new laws for the disabled which, according to some experts, are the most progressive in the world. One of the key documents, the law "On the social protection of disabled persons in the Russian Federation," entered into force in 1995. Under the law disabled persons enjoy medication benefits, reduced entrance fees to cultural institutions, a 50% discount on accommodation and communication services, besides, they are entitled to free health resort treatment and free use of city transport.

However, Russia is only starting to create a social infrastructure which will provide the disabled with proper rights to ensure their integration into society. One of the issues which worries social organizations is low demand for disabled people in the labor market and restricted opportunities for acquiring higher education. Only 10% of disabled people have jobs and there are only 2,000 disabled university students. 2,000 disabled students per year graduate from vocational and technical schools. Disabled workers are still employed only by specialized factories. There are only 1,5 thousand such factories with the total work force of 240,000 people, however, only 32% of them are disabled workers. In 2000 the "Social support for disabled persons in 2000-2005" federal program was adopted to solve the problems of the disabled. Apart from the federal program, legislative acts and target programs were worked out and implemented at the regional level.

A network of rehabilitation institutions is being set up within the framework of the program to help restore the lost abilities and provide professional advice to disabled people and their families. 605 rehabilitation centres and offices are successfully operating, 179 of which are for adults and 426 for children. There are 200 plants in Russia which produce technical equipment for the disabled. 67 state unitary, 5 specialized and 70 non-governmental prosthetic and orthopaedic companies are functioning in Russia to provide diseased or disabled people with prosthetic and orthopaedic devices. Every year they help up to 1 million people with physical disabilities.

For the first time in Russia 30 specialized centres for disabled children were set up at cultural institutions to help disabled children develop their creative abilities and learn various crafts. Over the past two years the number of invalids going in for sports has doubled. And the number of sport clubs for the disabled went up from 176 to 432. 50 sports events for the disabled are held annually, members of Russian clubs for the disabled participate in the international Paralympics.

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