Varuh ДЌlovekovih pravic

Ombudsman Svetina presents findings of the Human Rights Ombudsman from the Special Report about the accessibility of centres for social work for people with disabilities at the National Council of the Republic of Slovenia

Portretna fotografija varuha človekovih pravic Petra Svetine

The National Council of the Republic of Slovenia today, 26 January 2023, discussed the Special Report of the Human Rights Ombudsman about the Accessibility of Centres for Social Work for People with Movement or Sensory Impairments. The Human Rights Ombudsman (Ombudsman) decided to make a special report on the basis of anonymous complaints from users of centres for social work.

“Enabling physical access to public buildings, access to information and communication for people with movement and sensory impairments is an important element of guaranteeing equal opportunities to people with disabilities. Unfortunately, people with disabilities all too frequently find themselves facing numerous obstacles in public institutions. The Ombudsman checked the situation in all 63 units of centres for social work in Slovenia and discovered that it is not optimal. Moreover, it is critical in some cases,” said Ombudsman Svetina in the National Council.

In March 2021, the Ombudsman first started inquiring about the accessibility of centres for social work for people with movement impairments, and then in January last year turned to the same addresses to inquire about selected aspects of accessibility for people with sensory impairments. “We discovered that even in 2021 four units of centres did not provide physical accessibility of their premises for people with movement impairments, while nine buildings in which centres operate did not have parking spaces reserved for people with disabilities. Eighteen units of centres for social work did not have toilets accessible to people with disabilities. Hence, they directed people with disabilities to use toilets at a nearby petrol station or at a healthcare centre 170 metres away. This is unacceptable and points to the indifference of the state as well as of the management of individual units of centres for social work,” critically estimated Svetina.

In his words, the determined situation about accessibility from the perspective of people with sensory impairments is even worse. Only just over half of the units have a clearly marked entrance that enables unhindered access to people with hearing or seeing impairments. At the time of the inquiry, only one unit of all the units in the country had tactile signs for the orientation of the blind and partially sighted. Sadly, none of Slovenia's centres for social work is equipped with a hearing loop.

“More than a decade after the implementation of the Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities Act and after almost 15 years since the beginning of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities became valid, such situation in Slovenia is unacceptable. Centres for social work are visited by individuals in dire straits, so it is completely inadmissible that such institutions are not accessible for people when they need them. I am convinced that this report can offer the state, which is obliged to enable improvements, solutions comprehensive enough for its urgent action. This is an unequivocal task of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia and ministries which in their respective work fields realise the goals of the national action plan for people with disabilities. Thus, I expect the state to provide appropriate infrastructure that will enable equal treatment of all people or their social inclusion,” further emphasised Human Rights Ombudsman Peter Svetina.