Seeing beyond disability

Empowering people with disabilities to live a full life in Kazakhstan is challenging and there are still many hurdles that need to be overcome. However, recent innovations in this area have led to more favourable conditions for the protection of the rights of the disabled.

In February 2015, Kazakhstan ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This ratification was achieved by UNDP working closely with the Government of Kazakhstan to prepare the groundwork for the practical implementation of the Convention.

“A UNDP project helped to review buildings for compliance with standards suitable for people with disabilities. Also, standards of work areas for people with disabilities were designed, standards of special social services were formed and many more things have been done,” says UNDP project expert Olga Yugai.

“The Convention means that from now on people with disabilities have an institutional framework with a set of rules that they can use to protect their rights and take their cases to the relevant authorities, if they think that their rights are being violated. This is a very solid achievement,” says Vasily Shimansky, a wheelchair user from Kazakhstan’s Akmola Region.

Following an accident in 1992, Vasily has used a wheelchair to get around. A few years after his accident, Vasily started speaking out on disability issues and, with a group of friends, set up a pioneering grassroots organisation to protect the rights of people with disabilities in Kazakhstan.

Vasily now works as an adviser on disability to the governor of Akmola Region, one of several such advisers across Kazakhstan. He says that the effective communication of issues faced by people with disabilities to decision-makers is critical to getting problems solved.

“The biggest problem that people with disabilities are still facing in Kazakhstan is the lack of adequate, home-based medical assistance. We need social workers. They don’t need to be nurses to be able to help people with disabilities,” says Vasily.

Kuralay Baimenova is an adviser on disability to the governor of Aktobe Region. Twenty-five years ago a car accident left her disabled and she has had to use a wheelchair ever since.

“I provide a voice for the disabled and it’s my job to communicate those people’s needs to the decision makers on disability issues,” says Kuralay.

With disability being such a complex issue, UNDP has been at the forefront of bringing innovation to this area. A “business incubator” was set up in East Kazakhstan Region to support disabled entrepreneurs. Such decisive steps forward in empowering people with disabilities depend on work done by the Government, international organisations like UNDP and, of course, individuals like Vasily and Kuralay. Thanks to these efforts, mindsets around disability are slowly but surely changing in Kazakhstan.

“In the modern world bad vision is usually not a problem. It can be easily corrected with contact lenses or a pair of glasses. Similarly, conditions can and should be created for people with other forms of disability,” says UNDP Resident Representative in Kazakhstan Norimasa Shimomura. “At UNDP we will continue to bring innovative solutions and best practice to help the Government of Kazakhstan with this important work.”

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