Voice championing disabilities
Since the age of five, when Ali Amanbayev was diagnosed with a serious spinal injury, life has been a constant struggle.
- In Kazakhstan, US $200 million has been allocated to allow more than 2,000 people with disabilities to receive special services.
- 70 percent of public infrastructure in Kazakhstan is inaccessible to the disabled, but thanks to the campaign, the government is now surveying public buildings and making cost estimates for upgrades.
- As a result of UNDP work with the Ministry for Labour and Social Protection, Kazakhstan’s social protection system has been extended to include 500,000 disabled people.
“As a schoolboy, I began using crutches and had to do my homework lying on my back,” he recalls. “As the years passed, I realized that life would only become more difficult. It is not easy being disabled in a society with limited social support systems. Needless to say, there’s stigma attached to being disabled.’’
But attitudes and mindsets are slowly changing in Kazhakstan. Today, at 65, Amanbayev leads the Kazakhstani Union for the Organization of People with Disabilities. This summer, when he was appointed adviser to the Minister for Labour and Social Protection, he became the first person with a disability to hold this highly-ranked position in Kazakhstan.
This flagship appointment came as no surprise for Amanbayev, who has watched the rights of the disabled flourish recently in Kazakhstan.
Since 2008, UNDP has been working closely with the Ministry for Labour and Social Protection to support the rights of people living with disabilities. As a result, the country’s social protection system has been extended to include 500,000 disabled people. With UNDP support, a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) also increased their lobbying to appoint a person with a disability as an adviser to the Government. Amanbayev’s eventual appointment to the job marked a signal of fundamental change.
Thanks in part to UNDP advocacy, Kazakhstan signed the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol in 2008. More recently, UNDP has been working with the Government to promote national disability policies and the establishment of basic support services, such as opportunities to receive college degrees though distance learning, in addition to jobs training and rehabilitation services.
Improving social services
With UNDP advice, Kazakhstan has amended key laws to improve social services for vulnerable groups, with special attention given to those with disabilities. As a result, US$200 million of Government funding has been allocated, allowing over 2,000 people with disabilities to receive special services.
As a result of these improved government services, Amanbayev now has a personal assistant who helps him in his wheelchair around the city and within his own home. These days, more than 7,000 disabled people in Kazakhstan receive these critical services.
“It’s made such a difference,” Amanbayev says of his assistant. “He’s the extra oomph to help me face the challenges of each day.”
These days, Amanbayev and other NGO leaders are lobbying the Ministry for Transport and Communication to revise standards for providing access to public spaces and public transportation for the disabled. As a result, Alimbayev was invited to take part in several hearings and meetings at the Ministry, where he convincingly pointed out the urgent need for change in a country where such standards lag far behind the international norm. The Ministry promised to make all railway platforms and trains accessible for wheelchair users within the next two years.
“You can’t imagine how vital this is,” Amanbayev says proudly.