THE CENTER FOR RESEARCH OF ISSUES ON PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
In 2014, Tbilisi State University saw the establishment of a new research center – the Center for Research on Issues of Persons with Disabilities. According to Tamar Makharadze, Director of the Center, the creation of the Center echoes those processes which are underway in Georgia and the entire world regarding the protection of rights of disabled people. According to the data of World Health Organization (WHO), from 10-12 % of the population have disabilities. Since the late 20th century and the early 21st century, attention has increased on the need to create an equal environment for persons with disabilities and their social integration. Disability is no longer considered only a health issue, having moved from the medical sphere into one of social and human rights. To support this approach, the UN, the EU and other international organizations and missions drew up important documents calling on the international community to create equal and dignified conditions for persons with disabilities.
In 2009, Georgia signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, CRPD. In December 2014, this document was ratified by the Parliament of Georgia. The UN convention requires that our country create adapted environments for disabled persons, and that their interests and needs in all social spheres are considered--from ensuring access to education tailored to their needs and to employment, to providing support to their social and political activities. To meet this challenge, in January 2014, the government of Georgia approved the 2014-2016 State Action Plan for equal opportunities to persons with disabilities. The Action Plan envisages specific steps to facilitate the social integration of disabled people in various spheres. New social programs and services are planned.
Apart from the lack of needed services another serious problem is the low degree of public awareness on issues of disability which contributes to stigmatizing disabled persons. This impedes the creation of conditions for education, employment and a decent life for persons with disabilities.
According to data from the State Social Service Agency, there are 127,491 disabled persons registered in Georgia, while in reality the actual number is much higher. The program on inclusive education implemented by the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia has provided some children with disabilities access to public schools. However, many disabled children remain outside public schools. There is little or no data available on the number of disabled youth studying at vocational and higher educational institutions. However, one can assert that even without statistics their number is very small. The same is true for the employment of disabled persons – there are only rare cases of persons with disabilities are hired.
By establishing the Center for Research of Issues of Persons with Disabilities, Tbilisi State University aims at shifting the discussion of these issues into the academic space, to contribute to designing correct and consistent steps towards the social integration of disabled persons. The main goal of the Center is to facilitate the development of social programs and services supporting persons with disabilities and to decrease stigma in the society. The activity of the Center will concentrate on the following directions:
Research: Research will be used to help evaluate the efficiency of ongoing programs and plan and develop new services;
Training programs: Developing and conducting training programs will be carried out for various groups such as disabled persons, their families and organizations, government entities and employers, as well as both private and public organizations;
Facilitating international and interdisciplinary cooperation: The activity of the Center will involve students from the Social Work Department of the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences. Their activities in the Center will be a necessary learning practice. Research projects will involve Master’s and Doctoral students from relevant specialties (sociology, psychology, social work). Their experience will be reflected in their theses and dissertations. Research projects and training programs will be implemented with the support of local and international donor organizations within the framework of grant projects.
Foto: Campaign by the Tree of Life Foundation
According to Social Service Agency, there are 127 491 persons with disabilities registered in Georgia (However, the actual number is much higher.)