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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Disabled from Life? Armenia and Its Disabled People

Armenia is a small country in the South Caucasus with a population of nearly 3 million people. Having gained independence, after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Armenia has been trying to overcome the legacy of the Soviet past, a goal which was quite hard to accomplish. The difficulties that Armenia had to face were in every area of activities, especially in Human Rights, which was unknown or ignored topic in the Soviet Union

Due to very intensive domestic political developments, which were taking place on a regular basis, the main focus of Civil Society and NGOs in the area of human rights in Armenia were mainly freedom of speech and freedom expression.Thus, not enough attention has been paid to other aspects of human rights including the problems of disabled people. In my opinion this problem is crucial. Just like in every other country, in Armenia too, there are people who have suffered incurable physical injuries or were born with them.  These people need more care and attention. They feel isolated and sometimes even don't come out from houses.
There are mainly two reasons for that. 

                       Two disabled women collecting signatures for adapting roads for the vehicles of disabled people. 

First reason is that the streets and buildings of cities are not comfortable and they lack special equipment for disabled people. Especially in winter it is nearly impossible for them to go out. Most of them prefer to stay home rather than risk their lives on the streets. Furthermore this creates another problem; problem of unemployment for disabled people. Most of them lack professional education and cannot find jobs.

Second reason is more about psychology and stereotypes. Majority of disabled people in Armenia are afraid of public opinion which according to them will be negative to them. Moreover, some parents and relatives of these people ask them to stay home and not show up in public, as they think that having a disabled relative will only have negative effect on their social status.  

Thus, in my opinion, NGOs in Armenia focusing on human rights have a lot to do in order to tackle all these problems which touch not only the issue of governmental support but also a far more difficult task  whichs is changing people's ideas and attitude towards these people. 

Written by: Robert Ghazinyan 
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Robert Ghazinyan is from Armenia and he  graduated from the department of Oriental Studies of Yerevan State University and he is currently working at "Civic Forum" NGO. "Civic Forum" NGO is an organization with the aim  to strengthen a more sustainable civil society in Armenia based on the shared values of tolerance and equality, the rule of law, peace and democracy.