The adoption of the Law on Disability Pension in 2004 marked the institutionalization of protection of people with disabilities.
However, the law did not provide sufficient protection for the blind since it required additional limited physical or psychological disability to benefit from its provision.
The blind and partially sighted people in Kosovo were dependent on family members since social welfare did not come close to covering their needs.
Because of this, the Kosovo Association of the Blind requested the Office of the Prime Minister and Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare to draft the Law on Blind Persons as a means of providing a legal basis for solving the socio-economic problems of their community.
After extensive lobbying, the Government of Kosovo included the law in its legislative strategy for 2010. The Law for Blind Persons was adopted on June 14, 2012 by the Kosovo Parliament, with implementation starting on January 01, 2013.
The Parliamentary Development for Social Policies project provided considerable support to the Association and the blind and partially sighted community – it brought us together with the parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, Gender Equality, Missing Persons and Petitions, and experts to review and successfully amend the draft-Law towards developing a more inclusive and equal life for blind people of Kosovo.
The law provides for institutional protection such as:
It also protects this vulnerable group from abuse, insults, and ridicule, and offers financial support for the blind and their companions.
Equal rights are provided for preschool, primary, secondary, and tertiary education, with the use of appropriate techniques such as writing Braille, writing relief, writing in large letters, and text and audio.
Other benefits include free, limited, consumption of electric energy, urban and inter urban transport, and access to cultural and historical institutions.
UNDP also financed the printing of the law in Braille and distributed it to blind persons in Kosovo. An information campaign on the rights of the blind persons included distribution of brochures to schools, hospitals and other institutions, and the organisation of conferences and public debates on the radio and TV.
The adoption of the law, the printing of it in the Braille, and the campaign had a positive, but limited, impact on how the institutions and society approaches the issue of blind persons.
In order for the law to be fully implemented, respective ministries must draft secondary legislation within six months from the day of adoption.
The process is lagging behind, and the Association, with support from UNDP in Kosovo is advocating for drafting the necessary secondary legislation. Part of the advocacy is the showing of a short report (in the making) highlighting the daily difficulties of blind and partially sighted people.
We expect that during 2014 the Law on the Blind will be fully implementable and that our lives will be improved substantially.
We’d also like to acknowledge another important partner: The European Blind Union, which works towards an accessible and inclusive society with equal opportunities in all aspects of social, economic, cultural and political life.
* With thanks to Marta K. Gazideda for organizing and sharing this blog post.