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Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities examines the report of Russia

GENEVA (28 February 2018) - The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities today concluded the review of the initial report of Russia on its implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Introducing the report, Grigory Lekarev, Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Protection of the Russian Federation, said that the system of benefits and payments that had given persons with disabilities a minimum level of social guarantees was now being augmented by significant changes to the laws governing disability in the civil and criminal procedural codes, and in 40 federal and 750 regional laws.  The requirements of the Convention had been implemented in all administrative regulations and in the provision of municipal services, accessibility of buildings and the manufacturing of goods and vehicles.  The federal law prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of disability in employment had been adopted in 2017, a fund to support children with disabilities was in place, and persons with disabilities were being assisted in finding work.  The chief instrument was the federal ‘Accessible Environment’ programme with a budget of $7.5 billion over ten years.

Galina Khvan, Head of Section, Department for Humanitarian Cooperation and Human Rights, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that the Ombudsman was tasked with monitoring the situation of persons with disabilities.  It had made recommendations concerning deinstitutionalization of persons with disabilities living in psychiatric institutions, and had proposed a draft bill to improve accessibility and to grant exemptions from custodial sentences for persons with severe disabilities.

In the ensuing discussion, Committee Experts welcomed the positive steps including the law prohibiting violation of the rights of persons with disabilities and legal remedies in this regard, and went on to raise concern about the negative mentality and the deeply-rooted ‘defectology’ approach to disability.  The prevailing medical approach failed to address the attitudinal and socio-economic barriers faced by persons with disabilities, they remarked, and it reinforced prejudices and exclusion of persons with disabilities.  Russia did not have a comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation, which made Experts worry about the protection of rights and freedoms of the most vulnerable among persons with disabilities: women, children, persons with intellectual disabilities, and ethnic minorities.  An important issue of concern was the continued institutionalization of persons with disabilities in special care and educational institutions, and especially institutionalization of children with intellectual disabilities, children with autism, and children with disabilities without parental care.  The limitations to legal capacities of persons with disabilities prevented them from effectively enjoying their rights, and the introduction of the status of ‘partial legal capacity’ in the legislation did not change the nature of this discriminatory legal provision, they said.  Access to justice was also raised, with Experts noting that judges and court officials were not trained in the rights of persons with disabilities nor in the concept of reasonable accommodation.

In his concluding remarks, Mr. Lekarev took good note of the concerns raised during the dialogue, including universal design, raising the employment level, and above all, tackling the situation of persons with disabilities in institutions.

Olga Goncharenko, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Russian Federation (Ombudsman), stressed in her closing statement, the situation of persons with disabilities in institutions and in particular penitentiary institutions, was a matter of pressing concern.  

Damjan Tatić, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Russia, closed by expressing satisfaction that the delegation recognized major issues of accessibility, institutionalization, and the need for equal implementation of the Convention throughout all the regions of such a large country.  

László Lovászy, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for Russia, noted that the Committee had learned a lot from this dialogue, including about important progress and even significant advances in some areas, and that the remaining obstacles would be addressed in the concluding observations.

Theresia Degener, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation and hoped that the dialogue assisted Russia in fully implementing the Convention throughout the country.

The delegation of Russia was composed of representatives of the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection; Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Ministry of Internal Affairs; Federal Bureau for Medical and Social Expertise; Ministry of Transport; Ministry of Health; Ministry of Justice; Ministry of Construction, Housing and Utilities; Federal Penitentiary Service; Prosecutor General’s Office; Ministry of Education and Science; and the Permanent Mission of Russia to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage.  The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings is available via the following link: http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/.

The next public meeting of the Committee will be on Friday, 9 March, when it will issue concluding observations on the reports of Nepal, Oman, Sudan, Slovenia, Seychelles and Russia and publicly close its nineteenth session.

Report

The Committee has before it the initial report of Russia (CRPD/C/RUS/1).
 
Presentation of the Report

GRIGORY LEKAREV, Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Protection of the Russian Federation, said that the report conveyed the changes that had taken place within State policy since the ratification six years ago of the Convention, and which were geared towards establishing a human rights-based approach to disability.  System of benefits and payments that had previously given persons with disabilities a minimum level of social guarantees was now being augmented by legal mechanisms put in place by significant changes to the laws governing disability in the civil and criminal procedural codes, as well as in 40 federal and 750 regional laws.  The requirements of the Convention were being implemented in all administrative regulations and in the provision of municipal services, accessibility of buildings and the manufacturing of goods and vehicles.  It was the responsibility of the State and of society to create clearly stipulated conditions for independent living for persons with disabilities, including by providing assistance, access to information, guaranteeing individual mobility, and other services.  

The federal law prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of disability in employment had been adopted in 2017, and as a result 39,000 persons had been prosecuted.  The Ombudsman was tasked with monitoring the implementation of the Convention and with dealing with transgressions made by officials.  Specialised medical institutions and representative organisations were working together to set up rehabilitation programmes and train specialists, and had started a programme for persons with developmental challenges in 2016.  Persons with disabilities listed in the federal register of disabilities were able to contribute to an analysis of the services provided, which had helped to bring the national definition of disability closer to the that in the Convention.  Linking the concept of limitation to the concept of overcoming barriers, Russia had moved towards a social-legal model of disability.  

The State had a fund to support children with disabilities and assistance had been introduced to help persons with disabilities find work.  The chief instrument was a State program, ‘Accessible Environment’, which had been extended from 2020 to 2025 and had a budget of $7.5 billion over ten years, earmarked for representative organizations of persons with disabilities.  Employment rate among persons with disabilities stand at 32 per cent in both full and part time work; companies employing over 50 per cent of persons with disabilities were rewarded with procurement tenders; and there was a job vacancy website for persons with disabilities.  In the realm of education, 21 per cent of mainstream schools were now able to accommodate children with disabilities and speech therapy has been introduced in educational structures.  Russia was a State party to the Marrakesh Treaty; Russian sign language was universally recognized in the country and there had been a significant increase of television programs with subtitles.  
 
GALINA KHVAN, Head of Section, Department for Humanitarian Cooperation and Human Rights, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, recognized the urgency in providing persons with disabilities with the technical equipment necessary for their daily lives, and informed the Committee of a recently completed pilot project which issued persons with disabilities with certificates enabling them to purchase such equipment directly themselves, rather than waiting for it to be provided by the State.  The Ombudsman was tasked with monitoring the situation of persons with disabilities in the country.  In 2016, the Office had recommended deinstitutionalization of persons with disabilities living in psychiatric institutions, and had also initiated a medical and social support plan for the 20,000 persons with disabilities currently in prisons.  Furthermore, the Ombudsman had proposed a draft bill to improve accessibility and to grant exemptions from custodial sentences for persons with severe disabilities.  The 2017 coordination council of Ombudsmen from all regions of Russia had ruled that state actors must consult with associations for persons with disabilities before taking decisions on certain issues.  The Ombudsman would continue to build on the important work started in 2015 to ensure active participation of persons with disabilities in the society.

Questions by the Country Rapporteurs

DAMJAN TATIĆ, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Russia, opened the dialogue by saying that, given the huge financial, human and spiritual resources available to the country, the standards expected by the Committee would be high.  The Rapporteur welcomed the positive steps by Russia, including the legislation prohibiting the violation of the rights of persons with disabilities and legal remedies in this regard, the $7.6 billion investment into the barrier free environment, and the follow up by the Presidium of the Highest Courts on Committee’s individual communications.

Moving on to challenges, Mr. Tatić spoke of the negative mentality and the ‘defectology’ approach to disability, which dated back to the Soviet times, and which was still deeply rooted in the society and in the minds of persons with disabilities themselves.  This was reflected in the nature of complaints by persons with disabilities which mostly concerned the right to go to hospital to receive rehabilitation rather than the denial of access to goods and services.  He was concerned that there were several hundred residential institutions with a six-figure number of persons with disabilities, including children with disabilities, living in them.  Moreover, there was still a possibility of substitute decision making on behalf of persons with disabilities ‘in his or her best interest’.  Finally, the Rapporteur he moved to the question of persons with disabilities deprived of liberty, especially those with psycho-social conditions or intellectual impairments held against their will.  

Russia, as a member of the Council of Europe, was drafting amendments to the Optional Protocol to the Oviedo Convention on Human Rights, which the Committee did not believe were in line with Article 14 of the Convention.  

LÁSZLÓ LOVÁSZY, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for Russia, took positive note of the work done in Russia concerning sign language and said that the Committee would like to know more about other forms of communication for persons with disabilities.  Mr. Lovászy said that the Committee would also raise questions on procedures concerning adoption, inclusive education and rehabilitation, voting rights, and whether current legislation, both national and regional, for protection of persons with disabilities was suitable and effective.  Accessibility within the infrastructure and inclusion within culture, tourism and sport would also be probed, as would the independent monitoring mechanisms available to ensure the effective involvement of non-governmental organizations within decision making processes.

Questions by Committee Experts

Other Experts raised the point that term for a disabled person in Russian legislation – ‘invalid’ - did not meet the requirements of article 1 of the Convention, and reflected the still used medical approach to disability.  Such an approach failed to address the attitudinal and socio-economic barriers face by persons with disabilities and reinforced prejudices against them and their exclusion from some spheres of life.  What steps were being taken to align disability-related terminology, including terms ‘invalid’ and ‘mental retardation’, and related laws and policies with human rights-based approach to disability, and so compliant with the Convention?

Experts reiterated the concern expressed in 2015 by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights related to lack of a comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation in Russia to prohibit discrimination on a comprehensive list of grounds including disability, sexual orientation and health status.  They inquired about changes in existing laws to protect the rights and freedoms of most vulnerable among persons with disabilities including women, children persons with intellectual disabilities, and ethnic minorities, and also asked about protection from intersectional and multiple forms of discrimination, particularly for women and girls with disabilities.  What measures was Russia taking to prevent the use of forced treatment against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons with disabilities?

An important issue of concern was the continued institutionalization of persons with disabilities in special care and educational institutions, especially in the case of children with intellectual disabilities and children with autism.  There were reports of abuse of children with disabilities in some orphanages.  What measures were being taken to deinstitutionalize children with disabilities and promote their social integration, to prioritize family-based care, and to provide for an independent monitoring of State institutions?  

The delegation was asked to explain the participation of persons with disabilities and their representative organizations in policy formulation and implementation at the federal, regional and municipal levels; statistics on cases of discrimination against persons with disabilities and what the results had been; and the definition of disability used for registration on the federal disabilities register.

THERESIA DEGENER, Committee Chairperson, expressed surprise that Russia referred in its report to the primary prevention of impairment, which in practice meant preventing persons with disabilities from being born, and asked how this approach was aligned with the Convention’s focus on protecting the rights of persons with disabilities.  The Chair asked what steps Russia would take to return two children with disabilities who had been taken away from their foster parents on the grounds of the suspicion that the mother, Yulia Savinovskikh, was a transgender person, and because she was deemed unfit to foster because of her ‘male behaviour’.

Responses by the Delegation

With regards to disability-related terminology, the delegation conceded that indeed, this was a challenge.  Following the ratification of the Convention, Russia had passed the law aiming to bring the existing norms in line with its provisions, including the terminology.  Russia had reproduced the definition of disability which reflected the spirit of the Convention.  Unfortunately, this proposal had been refused by the largest organizations representing persons with disabilities, which first wanted to see a focus on accessibility and accommodation as a way to demonstrating to the society, in which prejudices still prevailed, a positive role that persons with disabilities could play, and then turn the attention to amending term ‘invalid’ and adopting a different definition of disability.  

The concern was also that the revision of the term would also involve a revision of the support services to more than 12.5 million persons with disabilities in Russia, and about 40 million others who had various forms of disability but did not have the status.  It was therefore obvious that this was a socially sensitive issue.  Russia was focusing on the practical implementation of the Convention, especially as chief concerns of persons with disabilities related to real life situations and not terminology.  That said, Russia would continue to move towards aligning definition of disability with the Convention, while at the same time working to allay the fears and concerns of persons with disabilities.

The federal registry of disability was an information system that brought together personal and medical data and on persons with disabilities that existed in different systems throughout the country.  For example, pension fund, social welfare system, health institutions and others actively sent information to this system.  The data were confidential and could be accessed only by persons with disabilities, through the personal office system which enabled them to apply for specific services, employment, devices, and in general review benefits they were entitled to.  The aim was to improve statistical data and to ensure access to information in electronic formats.  Russia was making every effort to protect data and information in the registry and to enable state, regional and municipal authorities to receive feedback on persons with disabilities living in their territory and on services they provided.  For example, the registry would provide regions with the number of persons with disabilities living in their territory, and their access to benefits.

The policy was focusing on social model of disability and it used the concept of limitations and context in classification of disability; the medical approach had never been used as such.  Based on the study of the best practices from other countries and the discussions with representative organizations of persons with disabilities, Russia had started to gradually introduce social aspects into the definition of disability, as so reflect the concept of abilities, barriers and overcoming those barriers.  Russia had chosen the
International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health, which it believed to be the best form of international practice.

With regards to discrimination, the delegation stressed that persons with disabilities were citizens of Russia and as such were covered by the laws of the country; in 2017 for example, 13 cases had been brought against those who had attacked persons with disabilities.  The Criminal Code prohibited discrimination against any individual or social group.  There was no specific legislation thon the protection of persons with disabilities from discrimination because they were full and equal citizens who enjoyed equal rights and freedoms.  Sanctions for violations of equality of rights and freedom was quite severe, stressed the delegate, and the legal mechanism in the country was sufficient to prevent acts by of discrimination against persons with disabilities.

In terms of anti-discrimination legislation, a delegate stressed that there were no subcategories of discrimination and any discrimination carried the relevant sanctions and was prosecuted.  

It was very important for Russia to ensure that the Convention was applied throughout the country and in all of its 54 regions, each of which had specific economic, social and cultural characteristic.  Mandatory roadmaps had been developed in all regions to increase accessibility to goods and services, and each region had to adopt long-term plans, allocate adequate resources and regularly report to the federal authorities.  The pace of the implementation of activities was obviously different between the regions, simply because the starting point was different.  

In addition to roadmaps, the authorities had prepared a law on oversight in the implementation of accessibility standards.  Different regions had different approaches, but the foundation for all was the same: the federal law and the encouragement of the federal Government.  The first objective of the Accessible Environment programme was to identify competent individuals on the issue of accessibility and so ensure that each region had competent public officials.  Accessibility standards were included in the compulsory training of future specialists in architecture and construction, and they left school fully trained in accessibility of buildings, transport, and environment in general.

The federal Accessible Environment programme had been put in place even before the ratification of the Convention.  It had been created with the participation of persons with disabilities and their organizations in each region, who identified the concrete objectives and worked on development of regional accessibility plans.  Moscow did not participate in this programme because it had its own and very significant accessibility budget.

Russia was currently working on extending the Accessible Environment programme, to include accessibility to services, particularly rehabilitation services, and access to information.  Russian sign language had received a recognition in 2014; persons with disabilities received between 40 and 240 hours of free interpretation per year, and the work was ongoing to further expand the service.  

Deinstitutionalization process was starting and Russia was currently accessing best practice around the world.  A delegate rejected the notion of forced treatment targeted specifically against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons with disabilities, and said that all measures of forced treatment were being used expressly for the purpose of maintaining health of a person suffering from certain illnesses.  Forced sterilization would only be undertaken upon a court decision.

In Russia, education was the place where the fight against negative prejudices started.  The plan for inclusive education had been adopted which included not only accessibility to building but teachers training and improving quality of education.  Teachers must have the knowledge and skills to work with children with disabilities in inclusive education.   The federal education standard provided for psychological support, provision of correctional treatment if necessary.  There was a law which governed the use of speech therapist, psychologists, defectologists, and other specialists to support children with disabilities.  In 2011, there had been only about 1,000 inclusive schools and today the number was 10,000 – basically, every fifth school in the country was inclusive.  The work on expanding inclusive education from the preschool to higher and professional education would continue under the new phase of the Accessible Environment programme.

Russia was taking first steps on the road towards deinstitutionalization of persons with disabilities, including through the adoption of the law on social care of citizens in 2015 which had established the new way of providing social services.  Under the law, families with disabled children were given separate conditions for provision of social services, in the home or in the rehabilitation institution, such as social teaching, psychological and communication services, geared to greater integration of the child within family.  Families were farther entitled to financial support, and would soon be able to benefit from the system of early detection and intervention which would enable them to access education and schooling opportunities as early as possible.

Today, there were 150,000 persons residing in psychiatric and neurological institutions.  Russia was developing alternative and different approaches such as outpatient care, family living, assisted living, and others.  Closing the institutions was a very socially sensitive issue, noted a delegate, and went on to explain that Russia had first developed a methodology which was distributed to the regions.  Practical work then followed the regions that were ready, and only then, a law would be introduced how Russia was proceeding.  Russia was focused on increasing transparency and oversight of the institutions, in order to improve the situation and conditions there.

According to the federal databank, there were 500,000 children without parents in the country, including 60,000 were children with disabilities.  They lived in children’s homes and a set of measures had been adopted geared to their deinstitutionalization.  The instruction had been issued to make homes as close as family environment and special attention was being paid that children were educated in the same manner as children living with families.  Each children’s home had an executive council which included representatives of social organizations which monitored the rights of children without parental care including children with disabilities.  Twice a year, those social organizations conducted their own independent monitoring visits to the children’s homes.

As for a representative organization of persons with intellectual disabilities, a delegate said that sadly, one such organization did not exist as yet.  There were different kinds of organizations from different regions and Russia was carefully listening to their voices.

During 2011 to 2015, programme Accessible Environment included a broad public awareness campaign to address negative stereotypes and prejudices.  The title of the campaign was We do not divide people like this, and it showed persons with disabilities in real life situations, working, studding, in sports, etc.  The campaign was now being implemented at regional levels.  This campaign, coupled with other factors, had had a very significant impact which was being regularly assessed from survey of persons with disabilities who were asked about the changes in the society and people mind-sets during the period.  The work on eliminating stereotypes was being undertaken from a very early age, and pre-schoolers were taught kindness and how to interact with persons with disabilities.  There were campaigns in Sochi, Moscow and elsewhere in the run up to the Olympic and Paralympic Games, to portray a positive picture of persons with disabilities.

Questions by Committee Experts

In the next round of questions, Committee Experts raised concern that the limitations to legal capacities of persons with disabilities prevented them from effectively enjoying their rights.  The introduction of the status of ‘partial legal capacity’ in the legislation did not change the nature of this discriminatory legal provision.  Particular concern was in relation of persons with disabilities without legal capacity in institutions.  What was being done to fully restore full legal capacity of all persons with disabilities and replace the current system with supportive decision-making?  What was being done to abolish the practice of forced detention of persons with intellectual disabilities without their consent on the ground of their impairment?  

As for access to justice, an Expert remarked that judges and court officials were not trained in the rights of persons with disabilities and the concept of reasonable accommodation.  In addition, the large number of courts were still not adapted to the needs of persons with disabilities.

Deaf and hard of hearing people had harder access to emergency and disaster information and hotlines were not accessible to them.  How was this being addressed?  Were persons with disabilities allowed to sign their own check, have their own bank account, inherit, and own property?

In terms of ensuring independent living for persons with disabilities, the delegation was asked to inform the Committee about measures to that effect, and also explain how representative organizations of persons with disabilities were involved in all policy and planning.  What was being done to protect children with disabilities placed in homes of institutions from abuse and violence?

The delegation was asked to comment on reports by independent sources who had reported on worrying situation in institutions, including malnutrition, neglect, lack of access to health or rehabilitation services, poor hygiene conditions, etc.

Responses by the Delegation

Responding to questions on early identification of disabilities, the delegation stressed that Russia carried out pre-natal diagnoses, with the intention of providing medical treatment and advice, rather than termination.  Sophisticated foetal surgery was available, which could remedy certain problems during the gestation period.  

Clarifying the Ekaterinburg case, the delegation said that children had not been removed due to the proposed gender reassignment of the guardian, but rather because of poor living conditions.  The court case was ongoing.  Regarding adoption, Russia was making changes to the list of illnesses and conditions that barred persons from adopting children.  

On how technical advancements being geared towards the needs of persons with disabilities, the delegation cited the example of cutting edge eye implants.  Progress had also been in the development of bionic limbs. In addition, Russia was attempting to keep abreast of global trends.  Ortho-prosthetic provision was based on the best international practice, whereas research was financed by the federal budget.  

Concerning legal capacity, Russia met the requirements of article 12 of the Convention.  Within the Russian legal system, persons with disabilities needed to possess dispositive capacity in order to make decisions.  In case of persons under the age of 18, or those with major impairments, they would not possess that capacity, but would nonetheless retain their legal capacity.  A draft bill was under way to determine the question of partial dispositive capacity.  Judges received regular training to sensitise themselves to the needs of persons with disabilities.  In terms of property and inheritance, persons with disabilities had the same rights as other citizens.  

Over 3,000 court buildings were accessible.  Some 50 per cent had elevators, while 25 per cent had sanitary facilities for persons with disabilities.  Russia had approved a targeted program for the reconstruction of court buildings, which would take into consideration the input of persons with disabilities.  

There were 11 institutions to train sign language interpreters.  While sign language interpreters were not registered, it was believed there were approximately 5,000 of them.  

Sign language interpreters were available in both civil and criminal cases, but in civil cases the cost had to be borne by the appellant, with the costs being met by the losing party.  In criminal cases, the costs for interpretation would be borne by the State.  There were no statistics available on the number of persons with disabilities working in the courts.  But, there was no restriction placed on persons with disabilities working as judges.  

Addressing institutionalization, the delegation explained that legal protection was regulated by a new law on social care for citizens, which entered into force in December 2013.  Ultimately, the responsibility lay with the regions.  Persons with disabilities were accommodated out of their own wish, or the wishes of their legal guardians. Deinstitutionalization was an important issue, but the State could not close institutions if their occupants had nowhere to go.  The State was thus attempting to develop systems, which would enable persons with disabilities to move back into the community.  To that end, there was a supported living pilot project in two regions.  An Institute of Guardianship had been set up to help with deinstitutionalisation and shared guardianship was also being explored.  

Responding to a question of forced medical treatment, the delegation confirmed that the so-called “deviant” conduct was not considered an illness, and that forced medical treatment did not take place.  

With regard to accessibility to the emergency services, the Ministry of the Interior had taken steps to give basic training in sign language to the police.  That was particularly the case for officers who were most exposed to the public, such as patrol officers, traffic police and criminal investigators.  Some 8,000 officers had already received instruction.  The 112 hotline was being improved for persons with disabilities, with some regions using Skype.  

While there were no available statistics on cases of discrimination, the delegation stated there were three criminal ongoing cases against officials in institutions or associations for mismanagement, cruelty and fraud.  In terms of access to justice, special attention was given by State prosecutors to persons with disabilities.  In terms of other offences against persons with disabilities, about half were of a ‘general nature’, such as theft.  There were no cases of abduction or slavery.    

Addressing questions of diagnosis, another delegate stated that the assessment of the severity of disabilities was based on the bio-sociological model, rather than the medical model.  Experts examined the negative impact of the environment on persons with disabilities.  

As for prison conditions for persons with disabilities, a special document covered rules governing places of detention.  For example, persons with disabilities had to reside on the ground floor and have access to all activities in the prison.  They could receive extra packages from their families and an unlimited amount of money transfers.  They received special rations of food and clothing, and softer shoes.  Special provision was made for children and breastfeeding mothers.  Minors with disabilities in prison could attend school and sign language interpreters were provided for them.  A pilot program had been introduced in 2017 for the transportation of detainees with disabilities in adapted vehicles or aircrafts.  The Ministry of the Interior had also been working closely with the Russian Association for the Blind and had supplied 3,500 books in Braille to the prison system.  

Concerning the question of foreign funding of non-governmental organizations, the delegation stressed that there was no prohibition on such organisations receiving funds from overseas.  In 2016, legal changes had been introduced to ensure that associations catering for persons with disabilities in receipt of foreign funding were not classified as foreign agents.  There were currently 6,790 such associations, of which 64 had all Russian status, while three were branches of international charities.  

With regard to education, special services were provided to children with disabilities from pre-school onwards.  Some teachers had been trained in the sign language, but more sign language interpreters were needed in educational institutions.  The Government aimed to ensure equal access to education for all children in the country.  

Turning to accessibility, the delegation said that there were around 35,000 facilities in the country visited by persons with disabilities on a daily basis and many of them needed to be adapted.  The authorities welcomed the oversight and feedback of disability associations in this regard.  With regard to the Internet, the delegate said that all official sites of state organs had to be accessible.  Moreover, private companies, such as banks and travel companies, were also ensuring that their online presence was disability friendly.

Questions by Committee Experts

An Expert asked about data collection at the national and regional levels, and disaggregated data in terms of impairment, age and location.  What was the involvement of persons with disabilities in data collection?

Another Expert raised concern about the mandatory medical examination for applicants for tertiary education, and wondered whether that would restrict access for students with disabilities to further education or future employment.  What was the quota system in employment and the realities of its implementation?  Finally, the Expert asked about the presence of disabilities within the agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals.  

Could persons with disabilities be employed through the framework of ‘special posts’ with reasonable accommodation?  Did they have equal chances of promotion as their non-disabled peers?  Would it be illegal for an employer to dismiss an employee who had become disabled subsequent to his employment?  

Another Expert asked for clarification on the number of persons with disabilities in employment in the public and private sectors, and the number of persons with intellectual disabilities.  One Expert questioned the burden of proof concerning discrimination in employment, while another asked for further elaboration on the bill which should establish assistance for persons with disabilities in the workplace.  

What were the provisions of support for parents with disabilities, or for parents of children with disabilities, to be able to carry out their parenting duties?  An Expert asked about voting rights for persons with disabilities and accessibility of polling booths, and inquired about the number of persons with disabilities in the Russian parliament.  What were Russia’s activities in terms of international cooperation?  

DAMJAN TATIĆ, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Russia, said he was pleased to hear that where representative organizations of persons with disabilities were not consulted in decision-making processes, such decisions could be annulled.  He asked how often that happened.  He also asked whether the delegation could give three to five points they would take back from the Committee to their country to help them in their ongoing work.  Finally, he asked about the accessibility of tourist and cultural sites, as well as accessibility during the World Football Cup.  

Another Expert wondered why only physical disabilities seemed to be covered in terms of accessibility.  What was done to implement the Marrakesh Treaty?

With regard to education, Experts noted that while the delegation had talked about inclusive education, it seemed they had taken some ‘backward steps’ related to education of persons with disabilities.  There was still a ‘special’ model of education for persons with severe disabilities.  What concrete measures had been taken to promote inclusive education?  

Experts also inquired about the legal status of the provision of the sign language, Braille and public information in accessible formats, about independent monitoring of the Convention. Was there a legal framework to incorporate persons with disabilities in the monitoring process?  To what extent were persons with disabilities able to access disease treatment in the country?

LÁSZLÓ LOVÁSZY, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Russia, asked about the legal background and protocols surrounding the use of injections to control sexual behaviour of persons with disabilities in institutions.  He also asked whether the increased number of institutions offering remote learning facilities would have the effect of isolating children with disabilities.  He further inquired about concrete examples about the improvement of ambulances for persons with disabilities and whether all types of disabilities were covered.   Were parents of children requiring cochlear implants able to consult medical staff about all available options?  How did Russia legally protected persons with psycho-social disabilities from being denied necessary drugs and services?  

THERESIA DEGENER, Committee Chairperson, asked about the access of women with disabilities to sexual and reproductive health services, as well as about the prevention of forced sterilization and abortion.  She stated that she was particularly concerned by the situation of intellectually disabled women and girls.  Finally, she underlined that the Committee maintained that all intellectually disabled people had legal capacity.

Responses by the Delegation

On data collection and disaggregation by disability, a delegate said that 49 existing forms for statistical accountability had been approved, which took into account 247 parameters on an annual basis.  It was not yet perfected and the information must be updated more regularly and other parameters added.  Search filters for parameters including the nature of impairment, gender and specific needs were operable, and information covering the entire country or individual countries could be seen.
 
Information channels that updated the federal system from the regions were too slow, and were now being sped up, and protection of data for quality and privacy was also being improved.  Information provided by persons with disability themselves, as well as information on attitudes on disability of able-bodied persons, was being incorporated.    When perfected, the system should give a detailed picture that would allow comparison against standards and the state of implementation in other countries on a wide variety of parameters.

On training for persons with disabilities, the delegation said that measures were in place to accommodate students with disability and accord benefits, and they were now entitled to apply to five institutions, on par with other students.  Employment quotas for persons with disabilities were in place but were not always filled.  There was a national discussion over proposals to charge fees for those employers that could not participate to provide funds to create other opportunities.  The Duma included representatives with disabilities in every party and such persons were able to fill appointed positions as well.  The main goal was to make the issue of disability cross-cutting throughout all sectoral policy, said a delegate, noting that there were special measures in the urban environment and health sectors providing for the needs of persons with disabilities.  An employee who became disabled could not be dismissed, and a series of measures had been developed to provide for the needs of such person, including transition to alternative work.

Families with disabled children received a special benefit targeted at parents who had to care for such children and could not work fulltime.  

On accessibility to tourist sites in the run-up to the World Cup, a representative recalled the extensive work done ahead of the Olympics and Paralympics, and said that even more work was being done ahead of the football tournament.  Six billion dollars were being spent to upgrade transit and ensure it would accommodate those with special needs.  All trains would be free for spectators, stations and airport terminals were being renovated with needs of all in mind.  All sports sites had been refurbished in light of requirements for persons with special needs, including seating elevators, lifts, entrancing and medical assistance.  All tourist sites on the World Heritage list of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

The delegation said it had become necessary to create special schools for children with disabilities, in an open atmosphere where those children were able to mix with all children.   There were special facilities for those children with hearing disabilities and new standards were being developed in sign language.
   
Measures had been taken to prevent abandonment and encourage adoption of children with disabilities; they had allowances higher than other children, and programmes were in place to educate prospective parents on disability-related issues.

One million persons were living with HIV/AIDS; of those, 47 per cent were registered and were receiving retroviral therapy free of charge, as foreseen by the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.  Every year more resources were being provided under the most modern approaches, with comprehensive monitoring.

Concluding Remarks

GRIGORY LEKAREV, Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Protection of the Russian Federation, took good note of the concerns Experts raised, including universal design, bringing services closer to persons with disabilities, promoting assisted living, raising the employment level, and above all, tackling the situation of persons with disabilities in institutions.

OLGA GONCHARENKO, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Russian Federation (Ombudsman), stressed that an active and constructive engagement with non-governmental organizations was key and was happy to note that the Government considered the Ombudsman’s comments.  Assisted living, and the situation of persons with disabilities in institutions and in particularly in penitentiary institutions, were a matter of pressing concern.  

DAMJAN TATIĆ, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Russia, was very pleased to hear that the delegation and the Ombudsperson recognized the major issues of accessibility, institutionalization, and the need for equal implementation of the Convention throughout all the regions of such a large country.  

LÁSZLÓ LOVÁSZY, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for Russia, noted that the Committee had learned a lot from this dialogue, including about important progress and even significant advances in some areas.  The Committee would address the obstacles that remained in its concluding observations.

THERESIA DEGENER, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation and hoped that the dialogue assisted Russia in fully implementing the Convention throughout the country.

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For use of the information media; not an official record