NGOs are calling on politicians to take the concerns of people with disabilities seriously. December 3, International Day of Persons with Disabilities, offers an opportunity to make political calls.
What is needed is greater rights to support services, accessibility and inclusive education, among other things. Recently, a UN expert committee identified areas for improvement in Austria’s implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Day of Persons with Disabilities: NGOs criticize failures
This case study also forms the basis for extensive criticism. “Austria is committed to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, but there are still huge gaps in its implementation,” Ombudsman Bernhard Achitz emphasized in a press release. He called for Austria to “move away from handouts and towards demands”. Although there are many support services for disabled individuals, there are no legal rights granted to them.
Kravanja calls for revision of Disability Equality Act
This is what is required when it comes to accessibility, for example the ÖZIV disabled people’s association demanded. Because ÖZIV President Rudolf Kravanja said, “People who are discriminated against in daily life due to disabilities can apply for mediation and possibly go to court, but there is no legal right to remove the obstacle!” says. ‘Toothless’ calls for a review of the Disability Equality Act. Patrick Berger, Head of the Opportunities Assistance Bureau of the Austrian Trade Union Confederation (ÖGB), also criticized the general difficulties in access, as well as the fact that the workplaces of disabled individuals are not barrier-free.
Measures to promote and protect women and girls with disabilities
The group advocates for equal treatment of people with disabilities and draws attention to the situation of women and girls with disabilities. Disabled lawyer Christine Steger noted that these women are exposed to sexual violence much more frequently than other women. Authorities, courts and support institutions often lack “barrier-free and low-threshold access as well as appropriate information for women and girls with disabilities.” The fact that special measures are needed to promote and protect women and girls with disabilities was also noted during the state audit, Steger said.
Legal authority to finance necessary assistive technologies
Diakonie and the Association are demanding legal rights to finance assistive technologies for the 63,000 people in Austria with limited spoken language skills. These technologies range from simple electronic aids such as buttons to more complex aids such as visual control. Verbund CEO Michael Strugl emphasized that in addition to legal authority, there should also be central points of contact in all federal states where applications, approvals and recommendations are possible. Diakonie director Maria Katharina Moser proposed establishing a fund supported by federal, state and social insurance companies to finance the aid.
Criticism didn’t just affect the federal government
The criticism affected not only the federal government but also the federal states. At the time of the government audit, there were concerns about the high poverty rate among people with disabilities. According to Martin Marlovits from the representative network association, as a result of the Basic Social Welfare Act and the implementing laws of the federal states based on it, they will not only receive no support, but will also be further excluded. In almost all federal states, social authorities oblige disabled people in need of social assistance to legally request financial support from their parents, otherwise social assistance will be reduced. “We call for the UN CRPD (Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, note) to be finally implemented and the reform of social welfare laws,” Marlovits emphasized.
Bayr criticized the “inadequate implementation” of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
The opposition also identified failures. SPÖ foreign policy spokesperson Petra Bayr criticized the “inadequate implementation” of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. “The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is a legally binding agreement that the government must implement and comply with,” said Fiona Fiedler, NEOS spokesperson for disabled people. He identified a “disaster” in the education sector: “Inclusive school policy is de facto over, children with disabilities and children with disabilities are segregating again rather than expanding inclusive schools.”