Croatian parliament receives UN handbook on disabilities

06 Feb 2013

imagePhoto by: Inia Herenčić
Croatian parliamentarians today received a helpful resource to assist in ensuring that legislation guarantees equal rights for people with disabilities. The Croatian Ombudswoman for People with Disabilities, Anka Slonjšak, presented Disabilities: A Handbook for Parliamentarians to the Parliamentary Committee for Health and Social Welfare. Publication of the Croatian version of the handbook was funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The handbook aims to help parliaments adhere to the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

"The Convention is historic and groundbreaking in many ways," Slonjšak told the Parliamentary Committee for Health and Social Welfare. "It ensures that the world's largest minority enjoys the same rights and opportunities as everyone else."
 
Over one billion people, or around 15 percent of the world's population, live with some form of disability. People with disabilities make up 12 percent of Croatia's population. Croatia was one of the first countries in the world to sign and ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. But despite good framework legislation, people with disabilities continue to face obstacles in making use of public facilities, whether in accessing government offices, using public transportation, or enrolling in schools. Although most people with disabilities are of working age, few have regular employment.
 
Parliamentary committee members observed that the term "persons with disabilities" applies to all persons who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments. They also warned that the media often uses wording that has been abandoned, such as "children with special needs."
 
The new handbook is both a call to action for the parliamentary leadership and a practical reference work that parliamentarians can turn to for information and guidance in tailoring legislation to address the challenges faced by people with disabilities. This handbook emphasizes the importance of human rights because they are so essential for the social inclusion of people with disabilities.
 
Publication of the handbook for parliamentarians was just one in a series of activities organized in Croatia with UNDP support to raise awareness and promote equal rights for people with disabilities.
 
On 3 December 2012, UNDP supported the Ombudswoman for Persons with Disabilities in organizing an event for parliamentarians to "step in the shoes" of people with different disabilities, including by trying to navigate the entrance to the Parliament with a seeing-eye dog or in a wheelchair. On the same day, Croatian President Ivo Josipović convened a roundtable so that people with disabilities could directly share the challenges they face with representatives of the responsible ministries.