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Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities discusses the availability of sign language interpretation in dialogue with Albania

Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 

28 August 2019

The provision of sign language interpretation was amongst topics broached by Experts of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as it considered the initial report of Albania on its implementation of the provisions of the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Committee Experts asked about the legal status of sign language in the country.  Was there a State programme to train persons in sign language?  What was the number of interpreters that provided sign language interpretation for deaf persons?  They also requested information on access to the sign language version of the Convention in Albania.

The delegation said that a process had started in 2015 which had led to the recognition of sign language by Albania.  Since then, more official inter-ministerial cooperation had been taking place to create a sign language certification procedure, and an agreement had been reached between the ministries.  The Government was also working to increase the number of sign language interpreters, with the support of the Ministry of Health and Social Protection.

A Committee Expert said that the number of sign language interpreters seemed to be four.  He asked about steps that Albania was taking to comply with the requirements of article 24 and ensure that persons with disabilities that needed sign language interpretation in the context of legal procedures had access to it.  

In his concluding observations, Lászlo Gábor Lovaszy, Committee Member and Rapporteur for Albania, said the dialogue had been positive and fruitful.  Mutual respect was the most important approach and the State party had provided a lot of responses.  The Committee hoped that its recommendations would be fully observed and considered by the State party, in close consultation with organizations of persons with disabilities.

Bardhylka Kospiri, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Health and Social Protection of Albania, said the Convention and other international legal instruments had positively influenced the development of disability-related policies in Albania.   It was still a challenge to further improve the legal, institutional and policy framework in compliance with the Convention.  The delegation believed that the Committee’s recommendations would help Albania move in the right direction.

Danlami Umaru Basharu, Committee Vice-Chairperson, thanked the delegation, organizations of persons with disabilities and civil society.  He expressed hope that the dialogue and the Committee’s concluding observations would prove to be useful in assisting the State party in implementing the Convention.

The delegation of Albania consisted of representatives of the Ministry of  Health and Social Protection, the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, the National Information Agency, the Ministry of Justice, the Employment and Training Directorate, the Statistics Institute, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy, the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Local Autonomy Support Organization and the Permanent Mission of Albania to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will next meet in public on Wednesday, 28 August at 3 p.m. to consider the initial report of Myanmar (CRPD/C/MMR/1 ).

Report

The Committee has before it the initial report of Albania (CRPD/C/ALB/1 ).

Presentation of the Report

BARDHYLKA KOSPIRI, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Health and Social Protection of Albania, recalled that Albania had acceded to, and ratified, all the United Nations human rights conventions.  During the reporting period, a series of measures had been taken to improve the legal, policy and institutional frameworks to harmonize them with international inclusion and accessibility standards; improve the collection and use of statistical data; create appropriate monitoring mechanisms; and provide accessible social services in coordination with various actors and stakeholders.  Albania was committed to promoting, respecting, implementing and fulfilling the rights of persons with disabilities, in line with the Constitution of Albania, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, other international instruments on human rights, and national legislation.  

The National Action Plan on Disability was in line with the principles and obligations set forth in the Convention.  The adoption of Law no. 93/2014 on the inclusion and accessibility of persons with disabilities had advanced the process of aligning the entire legal framework with the lines of the Convention.  The National Council on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities devised State policies aimed at ensuring the inclusion of people with disabilities in all areas.

Ms. Kospiri said that the new Social Protection Strategy 2019-2022 included policies and programmes designed to reduce poverty and implement economic assistance programmes, as well as provide services to persons with disabilities.  These services notably sought to generate employment and improve living.  These objectives were closely linked to the population of persons with disabilities.

The reform of the current disability assessment system had been conceived in the context of the reform of social assistance.  The ratification of the Convention and the adoption of the framework law had accelerated this process.  The improvement aimed at shifting the disability assessment from the previous medical model to a bio-psycho-social one, which aligned with the standards established by the World Health Organization, the tenth revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, and the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health. 

The Government had published guidelines and developed a screening methodology in line with the reformed disability assessment model.  Staff at the national level had been trained to use the new control methodology.  The new measures were accompanied with five cooperation agreements in the fields of education, vocational training, employment, health and social affairs.  The reform was already in place through two pilot programmes in Tirana and would gradually be extended across the country by 2024.

Turning to healthcare, Ms. Kospiri said that universal health coverage remained a continuous commitment of the Albanian Government, which sought to increase investments in all health-related sectors.  In this context, the Ministry of Health had developed the National Health Strategy 2016-2020 as the policy document that coordinated efforts to improve health and well-being.  It intended to meet citizens' need for quality and accessible health care services despite financial barriers.

Within the framework of the programme for improving access to and the quality of primary health care services, a National Rehabilitation Programme had been implemented.  This had led to the creation of 300 primary health care centres to improve the infrastructure in primary health care.

Another important development was the provision of specialized health services through the Electronic Referral System.  On average, 6,000 e-referrals were offered on a daily basis.  This service covered the whole territory of the country as well as all age groups and all categories of insured persons.

Ms. Kospiri remarked that the inclusion and integration of persons with disabilities in Albanian society was directly linked to the prevention of discrimination, the elimination of barriers to public services, and the realization of their rights in accordance with the Convention and the European Union Strategy for People with Disabilities 2016-2020.  In that regard, achieving sufficient physical accessibility remained a challenge for institutions.  Albania was open to collaborating with all stakeholders on planning, policy-making, monitoring and implementing stages of strategies and legislation for an inclusive society.

Turning to education, Ms. Kospiri said that the principle of inclusive education had become part of educational institutions.  Efforts had been made to transform schools into inclusive environments by providing them with specialized support services. 

Questions by the Committee Experts

LÁSZLO GÁBOR LOVASZY , Committee Member and Rapporteur for Albania, welcomed the delegation.  He said that he sincerely believed that the State party had indeed shown a sincere commitment to join the international community given the extensive list of ratifications of United Nations covenants and conventions it had acceded to.  While noting that the State party had not ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention, he welcomed the fact that the State party had not made any reservation or declaration to the Convention, which clearly indicated that Albania was seriously committed to taking human rights into account. 

The Rapporteur said he was aware of the fact that the State party had admitted backlogs in fulfilling the obligations of the Convention.  He nevertheless confirmed that, in accordance with the Committee’s understanding of the Convention, the State party as a whole bore responsibility in terms of international law when it came to the implementation and realization of the Convention. 

The Committee’s aim today and tomorrow was to cover the whole Convention to see whether progressive and gradual development could be noted in the country.  Everyone should be merited based on their achievements, not only statements or communications.  So, in this sense, the Committee was not only here to scrutinize States parties but also to help them better understand and fulfil the remaining or untouched tasks related to the implementation of the Convention based on the rules applicable to all States parties on an equal basis.

The Rapporteur said he knew what the heritage of the past meant to peoples and their countries, especially in eastern Europe.  Establishing a free country always required everyone’s work and commitment, and that of persons with disabilities included.

He congratulated the State party for the initial report as well as the civil society for its valuable contributions.

Regarding article 3 of the Convention, another Expert asked what kind of efforts had been made to adopt secondary legislation that required the education of women and their participation in decision making.  She asked if the delegation could provide the specific measures used for women and girls in the National Plan of Action.   Were women and girls included in the focus group’s monitoring efforts related to the National Action Plan 2016-2020?  Were they part of the National Disability Council?  She requested information on psychological rehabilitation services.

Another Expert asked about the number of complaints that were submitted by persons with disabilities to the Office of the Ombudsman and the Commissioner for the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities.  What had their outcome been?  How did the State ensure that every child with disabilities could receive their allowance?  He asked the delegation to indicate the amount of this allowance and the percentage of children with disabilities who had benefited from it.

Another Expert asked if the National Action Plan on Disability contained specific measures and outcome targets based on disaggregated data to address the human rights situation of children, Roma, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons and older persons with disabilities. 

An Expert asked about the extent to which the law on inclusion and accessibility of persons with disabilities implemented the human rights approach to disability included in the Convention.  To what extent did the disability assessment mechanism in Albania ensure the dignity of persons with disability, respect individual autonomy and differences, and provide for full inclusion?  He asked for information on training offered to policy-makers and all persons working with persons with disabilities, and capacity building in law enforcement bodies.

Another Expert asked about the legal status of sign language in the country.  Was there a State programme to train persons in sign language?  What was the number of interpreters that provided sign language interpretation for deaf persons? 

An Expert asked for information on the draft action plan on accessibility with regard to communication barriers.

Another Expert asked if Albania had organizations for persons with intellectual disabilities that represented them or their family members.  What was Albania doing to get rid of the derogatory legislation and terminology such as “mentally disabled”?

The Rapporteur asked the delegation to provide the definition of “denial of reasonable accommodation”.  Could it explain what concrete protection was provided to women with disabilities vis-a-vis domestic violence?  He requested information on the existing conditions to access legal aid as well as the sign language version of the Convention.  What were the safeguards or sanctions in place in public institutions regarding accessibility, and violation of accessibility-related norms?

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation said that this dialogue was important to improve the work of the Government as well as Albanian legislation.  The law on inclusion and accessibility was in line with the principles of the Convention, and the Government had sought to have the principles of this law in every document since its adoption.  It had been a priority.  The Government had made different interventions in the legal field based on this law.  A human rights perspective had been integrated in the evaluation of disabilities.  Data collection had been better regulated and the amount of paperwork had been reduced.

Regarding the rights of women with disabilities, changes in the law on domestic violence had led to 300 decisions, which had supported the creation of new shelters and centres.  There was legislation on discrimination in Albania which included various grounds for discrimination, and persons with disabilities were mentioned in this law.  On allowances for children, there were 15,397 children, including 138 children with disabilities, who were benefitting from it. 

Law no. 93-2014 fully addressed the principles of the Convention, as had been the Government’s intention.  The Council of Ministers had adopted a separate policy document for disability evaluation which included precise measures and objectives.  

The National Disability Council was comprised of 10 members of the Government and seven civil society members.  Of the latter, four were women and three were men.  The Government had provided this Council with continuous support so that policies could be improved.  The monitoring report had been recently completed and civil society members had been fully included in the process.

On civil society organizations, the Government had highlighted their importance in consultation processes, and it also had the obligation to send every new document or legislation to civil society to obtain their opinion and seek their contribution.

Turning to sign language, the delegation said that a process had started in 2015 which had led to its recognition by Albania.  Since then, more official inter-ministerial cooperation had been taking place to create a sign language certification procedure, and an agreement had been reached between the ministries.  

On the National Action Plan on Accessibility, the delegation pointed out that in Tirana in May, an important conference for all ministries and local governments had been organized, which could lead to a better implementation of the plan at the local level.

Regarding the importance of the law on inclusion, every municipality had to have staff members that were responsible for addressing inclusion issues for persons with disabilities.  What was more, there were focal points that had been trained on disability issues, the concepts of the Convention, and the implementation of rights at the local level.

The Government was working to increase the number of sign language interpreters, with the support of the Ministry of Health and Social Protection.

There were programmes in place for family members of persons with disabilities to support their employment, as part of social integrated services.  A new law had been adopted in that regard.  Local Governments were obliged to comply with it in conducting their everyday work.

Legal definitions of arbitrary detention had changed significantly, and references to barriers had been included in legislation.

Monitoring was considered important and had been included in the action plan, which was currently being revised.  This revision aimed to extend it and align it with the mid-term budget.  Different indicators were set for each area.   Efforts were made to train Ministry staff, notably those who were focal points, in order to improve the quality of the reporting that monitoring efforts required.

Labour market policies in Albania provided a comprehensive package of services and programmes to facilitate the transition of individuals to decent work.  The system was designed for people who had difficulty finding work, such as persons with disabilities.  In March 2019, a new law on employment had been approved and special programmes had been implemented that benefitted persons with disabilities, including persons with hearing impairments.

Since 2019, all official websites of the ministries had special functionalities dedicated to persons with disabilities to facilitate access to information on services provided by public institutions, such as a zoom function that helped people who had limited visibility.  In Albania, there was a portal called the Albania Governmental Portal that enabled every citizen to apply for online services.  Over 600 services were offered on that platform.  It was therefore not necessary to leave one’s home to have access to these services, as well as data.

The delegation explained that it was difficult to have data on the use of these website functions, but the delegation took note of the Committee’s remark, and this was a good point for the future.

As regarded “persons with mental health disorder”, for several years now Albania had shifted from institutional care to community care.   The psychiatric institutions had been downsized and two psychiatric hospitals had been integrated into regional hospitals.  New services had been created, notably ambulatory ones, such as community mental health centres.  Care was offered by multidisciplinary teams comprised of psychiatrists and social workers, amongst others.

On the evaluation of disabilities in educational settings, the delegation explained that a multidisciplinary committee had been part of the new framework set forth by recent legislation.  The education of persons with disabilities was offered in accordance with law no. 69-2012, which provided that the inclusion of children with disabilities in specialized institutions was temporary.  The inclusion and integration of children with disabilities in mainstream kindergartens and schools was important.  These children were provided with services based on their needs -- in addition to a classroom teacher, educational assistants were also present in classrooms to provide them with such services.  There were now 944 assistant teachers in the pre-University education system compared to 700 last year.  Only 15 per cent of children with disabilities attended special schools, including the two national institutes for the deaf and hard-of-hearing and the national institute for blind persons.

Follow-Up Questions by Committee Members

An Expert, referring to article 11 on the situation of risk and humanitarian emergencies, asked for information and specific measure related to that matter.  Could the delegation inform the Committee about concrete measures to bring the code of criminal procedure, the code of civil procedure, and the law in line with the Convention?  She asked for information regarding policies on personal mobility.

Another Expert, turning to article 12, asked how the State party ensured equality before the law, notably as regarded guardianship rules and the implementation of supportive decision-making procedures, in line with General Recommendation number 1.

How long could persons with disabilities have their legal capacity taken away from them?  Did these decisions ever get reviewed?  What was the Government doing to make sure that persons with disabilities and their families had access to the services they needed to live in their community and be safe from abuse?

Another Committee member asked for information about regulations allowing for involuntary or non-consensual commitment or treatment in mental health institutions, if they existed.

He drew the delegation's attention to the fact that terms like “mental health disorders” used in the initial State report and the replies provided to the Committee were not in line with the Convention.  Could the delegation specify what the deinstitutionalization strategy was in the State party, and provide information about related timeframes and budgets, as well as on the progress and outcomes achieved?  To what extent was access to personal assistants available and sustainable?  Could persons with disabilities choose their personal assistants?

Another Expert said that the number of sign language interpreters seemed to be four.  What steps was Albania taking to comply with the requirements of article 24 and ensure that persons with disabilities that needed sign language interpretation in the context of legal procedures had access to it.  He requested information about the procedure in place to investigate instances of violations of the rights of persons with disabilities.  Who was in charge of conducting such procedures?  Were persons with disabilities as well as the police aware of the existence of such procedures?

An Expert said that civil society organizations had pointed out that caregivers and guardians were sometimes referred to as “Kudesta”, and this created issues related to the exercise of legal capacity by persons with disabilities, including persons with visual impairment and sharing impairment.  How was the Government solving this problem?

Moving on to article 17, another Expert sought clarification on cases of sterilization and abortions. 

To what extent were persons with disabilities mentioned in laws on discrimination, another Expert asked?  He asked whether there was a law that established the denial of reasonable accommodation as a form of discrimination against persons with disabilities.  Did the Government have any measures available to support or encourage persons with disabilities pursuing law-related careers?

LÁSZLO GÁBOR LOVASZY , Committee Member and Rapporteur for Albania, asked the delegation to provide information regarding prison visits conducted by organizations representing persons with disabilities.  He expressed concern about the low number of reported instances of abuse and the absence of data on sanctions related to domestic violence.  What concrete plans and figures did the Government have to increase the quality of day care services?   Could the delegation provide concrete developments or existing safeguards with comparable figures related to the fields covered by articles 10, 17, 18 and 20?

Follow-Up Answers by the Delegation

The delegation said that, as regarded accessibility, some national programmes were aimed at improving access to healthcare as well as the quality of services provided.  Regarding involuntary treatment and physical restraint, these matters were covered by the mental health law of 2012, which laid out a procedure and outlined conditions under which a person with “mental health disorders” became a subject of involuntary treatment, and how this treatment was registered in the person’s clinical files, as well as the rights of the person under this procedure and time limits, amongst others.  The Government was trying to limit the use of physical restraints and the Ministry had adopted guidelines restricting their use and setting out for how long they could be imposed.

On involuntary treatment, the delegation explained the rights of the person concerned, noting that time limits were established during the initial assessment.   The Government was committed to minimize the use of physical restraint in specialized mental health inpatient institutions.  It was important to note that the Mental Health Law had been approved in 2012, before the ratification of the Convention.  The Government was currently establishing a working group with experts that would evaluate the Committee’s recommendations and accordingly examine potential amendments to the Mental Health Law.

In the field of mental health, the National Health Inspectorate had the authority to carry out periodic or ad hoc inspections in every health institution, including mental health care institutions.  Specific legal provisions dealt with monitoring by external entities, such as the anti-torture mechanism that was part of the Ombudsman’s Office, which performed periodic and ad hoc visits to mental health institutions as well.  It also made recommendations to the Government and institutions.

On forced sterilization, the delegation confirmed that there had been no such cases.

Regarding humanitarian emergencies, the Government had already started to implement the Sendai Framework.  There were also articles of the law on civil protection that dealt with this issue.  Civil society actors were involved and played an important role in the development of new policies in that regard.

Socially integrated services were provided to 708 children aged 16 or younger.  There were 28 centres providing holistic services to children, including physical therapy.

The policy document for the assessment of disability was produced following the adoption of the psycho-social model to specify the modalities of its application.  Discussions were ongoing to put in place measures requiring institutions to monitor personal assistance in the future, and the Government expected municipality employees to be an integral part of this process.

Individuals that benefitted from disability payments on the basis of the legislation on social services as well as persons who received services in mental health care institutions, or were subjected to involuntary treatment in mental health care institutions for various “mental illnesses”, had access to free legal aid.  The Ministry of Justice had established a special department with adequate personnel and resources to administer the legal programme.  The number of personnel had increased from 2 to 20 persons.  Free legal aid was also provided to persons with hearing impairments during the proceedings.

The law set forth clear definitions of discrimination, which covered distinction, exclusion and limitation, amongst others.  The Ombudsperson and the Commission for the Protection against Discrimination had become important actors in the implementation of this law.  The law included a definition of direct discrimination, which had been expanded.  Disability was one of the grounds for discrimination included in the law.  There had not been as many complaints as the Government would have liked.  Over a period of three years, there had been 61 cases of discrimination.  The most common complaints were related to accommodation, access to services, and education inter alia.  The Government had put in place various measures targeting vulnerable groups that were clearly identified in the Social Protection Strategy.  The number of persons with disabilities in the country stood at around 145,000. 

The law on territorial planning and development, notably article 45.1, provided that all construction of public housing space as well as parks and roads in Albania should meet the requirements and the standards of suitability for persons with disabilities.  The legislation related to construction had also been improved.

On education, the delegation said that Albania was one of the few countries which had a cabinet member who had disabilities.  In the Commission of Protection from Discrimination, two members were persons with disabilities.  One of the leading individuals in the institute for blind persons was blind.  This was indicative of the growing attention paid by State institutions to this issue.  Persons with disabilities would continue to be integrated and increasingly become part of society.  Their inclusion in public spaces was increasingly visible.  This was not only due to the ratification of the Convention, but also the adoption of legislation and efforts to improve the situation on the ground.

The national health strategy for the years 2016-2020 was guided by human rights principles and sought to provide equal access to healthcare in line with the principles of solidarity and accountability.  There were 14 institutions offering specialized health care services in the second and third levels of the referral system.  On average 6,000 referrals were made every year, covering the whole territory and all age groups, including persons with disabilities.  Persons with visual impairment residing in public institutions received specialized services and free glasses.  There were 2,251 such residents.

Questions by Committee Experts

An Expert asked for information about the restrictions on marriage imposed on persons with intellectual disabilities.  On inclusive education, what were the plans and what steps had been taken to ensure departure from the segregation of children with disabilities?  Were sign language services provided in higher education institutions? On an adequate standard of living, he asked what services were provided to migrants and members of the Roma community who had disabilities, notably women.

Another Expert asked for more information about the national employment services and vocational training schemes, as well as national action plans or actions carried out in the context of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals agenda.

Focusing on cochlear implants packages for children with hearing impairments raised bioethical questions, remarked another Expert.  Did the Government provide information to deaf people and their families about the various existing options?  She asked the delegation to provide information on measures put in place to ensure that women and girls with disabilities, including Roma women and girls, had access to sexual and reproduction health care services without discrimination.

Was Braille officially recognized as a medium of communication, asked another Expert?  He asked for information about the availability of easy to read documents when individuals were interacting with the Government in Albania.  To what extent were the “social enterprises” mentioned by the delegation different from the old-fashioned sheltered workshop employment scheme?

What was the percentage of programmes of television that had sign language interpretation or subtitles, asked another Expert?  What support did the Government provide to foster access to sports and museums and other cultural facilities?  What was being done to encourage the creative potential of persons with disabilities?

LÁSZLO GÁBOR LOVASZY , Committee Member and Rapporteur for Albania, thanked the delegation for its responses.  There were, however, some issues that needed to be clarified.  On sign language interpretation, he requested information on the involvement of organizations representing persons with disabilities in the development of a certification.  Could the delegation also provide information on the involvement of such organizations in the development of action plans on mental health services?  On employment, there seemed to be unequal access to services, notably at the local level.  He also asked about accessible voting material.

Another Expert asked how the Government would ensure that persons with disabilities employed in “social enterprises” would not be segregated in places outside of society’s confines but rather be included in the open labour market.

An Expert asked whether the Government had planned to support the development of assistive technology such as text to speech.

Another Expert asked for specific information on the measures to ensure that polling stations were accessible for persons with disabilities, for example by providing them with information in accessible formats, such as Braille, easy-read and sign language.

An Expert asked for information on the Government’s plans and position with regard to the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled.

Response by the Delegation

The delegation explained that in March 2019, the new law on employment had been approved which focused on promoting the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the labour market through quotas for employers and the creation of an employment social fund.  While there were no quotas that had been put in place yet, according to article 20 of the new law, employers should employ a person with a disability for each 25 employees.  Failing that, the company had to contribute an amount equivalent to one person’s salary to the fund.  A working group comprised of social partners and civil society organizations working on disability issues had been created.  By March 2020, the legal framework would be approved, and the quota system and the fund would be in place.  There should be information about the implementation of this programme in the next State party report. 

It was important to note that persons with disabilities who were employed through the employment programme did not stop receiving disability payments.  With the new programme that would be implemented next year, the Government hoped that there would be an increase in people registered and that this would lead to the collection of more data.  On vocational training, the delegation explained that it was provided in 10 public centres.  There were 52 different vocational training courses offered.  The Government had developed good cooperation with non-profit organization operating in the field for these programmes.   Disability issues were covered in manuals.

The Government had signed an agreement with the World Bank on the social assistance modernization project to improve the service provided to people affected by poverty and persons with disabilities.  The conceptualization process of this reform had started and had already yielded results.  The objective was to prepare new guidelines for the psycho-social evaluation of disability for children and adults. 

A new assessment approach would incorporate new criteria that would be in line with the Convention.  Benefits would no longer be given on the basis of diagnosis but rather on the assessment of the “functioning” of individuals.

A curriculum for training sign language interpreters had been developed following the conclusion of an inter-ministerial agreement.  As the courses started, the number of sign language interpreters would increase.

On screen readers and speech-to-text software, the delegation said Albania was developing standards.  The various software was owned by private companies, some of them global, so it was expensive for the Albanian Government to enter into agreements with them.  However, it should be noted that the pronunciation of the Albanian language was simple -- it was spoken as it was written.  This meant that a screen reader software developed in English would work well with texts in Albanian.

The delegation explained that last year the Ministry of Culture had organized a regional meeting to evaluate the possibility of ratifying the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled.   On the basis of the national strategy on copyright and intellectual property, the Government expected to ratify the Treaty as soon as possible.  It should be noted that in Albania, under the 2016 law on copyright, it was prohibited to impose limitations on the rights of blind persons or persons with disabilities.

The Government was implementing a strategic document, the Action Plan for Sexual and Reproductive Health 2017-2022, by increasing equal access to universal health care services.  Reproductive and sexual health care services were offered at all levels of the health care system. 

On the electoral participation of persons with disabilities, the Electoral Commission had exercised its full authority to ensure that persons who could not vote by themselves could register and benefit from premises that were fully accessible.  Information about the voting centres had been gathered, local Governments had been asked to build permanent ramps in the facilities where poll stations were located, and provisions for Braille had been made.  

The upcoming 2020 census would include the Washington Group questionnaire for measuring disabilities.  It included a set of questions aiming to measure difficulties in seeing, hearing, walking, climbing steps, remembering or concentrating, as well as selfcare.  This would provide policy makers with data and help the Government better understand differences in employment and education, for instance, and how this was linked to disabilities. 

Persons with disabilities were a priority group in social housing programmes, such as subsidy loans, interest subsides and immediate grants.  The decision of the Council of Ministers on immediate grants specified that persons with complete or partial visual impairment who were unable to work in normal working conditions received free of charge up to 10 per cent of the value of low-cost apartments.  In 2018, 230 persons benefited from low cost housing.  There were 248 persons benefiting from this programme in 2019.

Concluding Remarks

Bardhylka Kospiri, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Health and Social Protection of Albania, said the Convention and other international legal instruments had positively influenced the development of disability-related policies related to social services and inclusivity in Albania.   It still remained a challenge to further improve the legal, institutional and policy framework in compliance with the Convention.  The delegation believed that the Committee’s recommendations would help Albania move in the right direction.

LÁSZLO GÁBOR LOVASZY , Committee Member and Rapporteur for Albania, said the dialogue had been positive and fruitful.  Mutual respect was the most important approach and the State party had provided a lot of responses.  The Committee hoped that its recommendations would be fully observed and considered by the State party, in close consultation with organizations of persons with disabilities.

DANLAMI UMARU BASHARU, Committee Vice-Chairperson, thanked the delegation as well as organizations of persons with disabilities and civil society.  He expressed hope that the dialogue and the Committee’s concluding observations would prove useful in assisting the State party in implementing the Convention.

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