The Human Rights Ombudsman Peter Svetina presented a Special Report on Accessibility of Centres for Social Work for People with Movement and Sensory Impairments, today, 1 December 2022. It was prepared by the Ombudsman’s office and will also be sent to the Slovenian National Assembly today.
At the presentation, experiences of the (non)accessibility of centres and other public institutions were also shared by Stanko Novak, president of the Paraplegic Association of Prekmurje and Prlekija, Matej Žnuderl, president of the Federation of Societies of the Blind and Partially Sighted of Slovenia, Anton Petrič, professional associate of the Slovenian Association of Deaf and Hearing Impaired People, and Matjaž Juhart, general secretary of the Slovenian Association of Deaf and Hearing Impaired People. They agreed that it is unacceptable that almost twelve years after the entry into force of the Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities Act, they still face various insuperable obstacles, which make it difficult for them to enter or move around in a public school, a centre for social work, pharmacy, or other public institution.
As Svetina emphasised at the presentation: “Enabling physical access to buildings in public use, access to information, communications and other services intended for the public, including for people with movement and sensory impairments, is an important element of providing disabled people with equal opportunities. Inaccessibility is a multi-layered problem that affects many buildings in public use, and must be addressed comprehensively. Some quick solutions are nevertheless possible. We discovered this when we carried out enquiries in all 63 centres for social work – buildings in public use – when we verified their accessibility for people with movement and sensory impairments. As can be seen in the special report we prepared, we received some very clear replies, which are quoted in the report, but above all we discovered that the situation is not optimal. Moreover, in some cases it is critical.”
The Ombudsman also found that last year four centres did not provide physical access to their premises for persons with mobility impairments, and nine buildings used by the centres did not have parking for disabled persons. “Eighteen centres for social work did not have bathroom facilities that were accessible for disabled persons. So they told disabled persons to use the facilities at the nearby petrol station, or the health centre 200 metres down the road. This is unacceptable and indicates the indifference of the state and the management of individual centres for social work,” stressed Svetina.
He also said that accessibility for people with sensory impairments was even worse, as can be gathered from a special report prepared by the Ombudsman’s office. For example, only just over half of the centres had a clearly signposted entrance that provides unimpeded access to people with impaired vision and hearing. At the time of the enquiry, only one centre in the whole country had tactile markings for the blind and visually impaired. None of the centres for social work had any 3D symbols or Braille inscriptions. Neither did any of the centres have any displays for written information, or any appliances for showing videos with important information in sign language and with subtitles. Nor are there any possibilities for installing hearing loops in any of the Slovenian centres for social work.
“The people who come to centres for social work are in great hardship, so it is completely unacceptable that such institutions are not accessible to people when they need them. For over a decade, Slovenian legislation has defined that the duty of the government and its ministers is to create and provide equal opportunities for disabled persons. However, judging by the deficiencies uncovered in the centres for social work, I can say for certain that those responsible have not done their work, although in theory they may have made efforts for every person’s dignity to be respected, and to create equal opportunities for disabled persons in all areas of life. I therefore expect that the state will provide appropriate infrastructure that will allow all people to be treated the same way and facilitate their social inclusion. The current state of affairs is pushing the disabled and those with movement and sensory impairments, who are even more vulnerable, to the edge of society, and we are not respecting their constitutional rights,” concluded the Human Rights Ombudsman Peter Svetina.