Invisible privileges are a category of basic things available to many by default. We may not think about going up the stairs when we come home or using accurate terms when we describe our friends. But this is not the same for everyone. Every day people with disabilities face many physical and information barriers invisible to most people, are exposed to discrimination invisible to others, and have to overcome negative stereotypes.
All people are born with equal and inalienable rights and fundamental freedoms. This rule is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, other international documents, as well as countries’ legislation. However, due to certain circumstances beyond their control some people may be limited and sometimes even deprived of the opportunity to exercise their rights. Currently, there are over 193 thousand people with disabilities in Kyrgyzstan.
Knowing the rights and opportunities
Deep understanding and acceptance of the principles of UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities completely changes the attitude towards persons with disabilities. In this regard, the language of the issue is also changing. In order to educate the public, reduce and, if possible, eliminate negative discriminatory stereotypes against people with disabilities, a number of measures have been implemented by UNDP in Kyrgyzstan with the participation of people with disabilities, government representatives and mass communications. Since October 2020, in all districts of Osh and Chui provinces, trainings have been conducted to increase the level of legal literacy of the persons with disabilities and representatives of local state bodies and local self-governance bodies working with persons with disabilities, to raise the public awareness about disability and to popularize the Law on State-Guaranteed Legal Aid. The training participants show interest in the benefits available for people with disabilities, raise issues of inclusion and inclusive education. For example, not everyone was aware that there is a Center of free legal aid provision of the Ministry of Justice in Belovodskoye village, and people can apply for free legal advice and aid at the address: 37 Lenin St. (in the state notary office).
“Discrimination on the basis of disability is obvious and quite persistent. In pursuance of the ratified UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Kyrgyzstan, we intend to eradicate inequality, inform the public and empower persons with disabilities. We support inclusion in all areas of life. We hope to be heard, and believe that gradually the rights of people with disabilities will be respected in every corner of Kyrgyzstan in accordance with the UN Convention”, said Tolkunbek Isakov, President of the Foundation “Provision of Legal Aid to People with Disabilities”.
We all know how advertising works - an endless stream of one and the same idea entering through all possible information channels which after a while becomes a part of our speech and then influences our actions. Inclusion and equal rights are also created in our thoughts first, when we realize our invisible privileges and analyze our communication which will inevitably raise awareness and responsibility in matters of disability. Journalists, media representatives, and bloggers are the primary sources of information flows that shape opinions in society. At the request of the Ministry of Labor and Social Development of the Kyrgyz Republic, an online course “Coverage of disability topic” in the Kyrgyz and Russian languages was developed for them, which can be taken independently and receive a certificate. Moreover, this course was included by the Department of Journalism of the Kyrgyz National University as part of the main discipline “Professional Ethics of Journalists”. Additionally, Osh State University has introduced the training module to cover the topic of disability as an elective course since February 2021. Currently 17 students have chosen this course and are studying this topic.
“Recently, the word “disabled” has been criticized in society, and the term “people with limited health abilities” is used instead. Social workers state that this highlights the personality first and only then health characteristics. But this term has also been criticized. If a person has a bad headache or a broken leg, they will also become people with limited health abilities. However, they do not have a disability status. Therefore, it is recommended to call the “person/ people/woman/man/child with disability”. In addition, there are many negative stereotypes about people with disabilities”, noted Ainura Alymbekova, Project Coordinator. Terminology, legal framework, case studies and a lot more are included in the online training course.
Journalist Aiganysh Shavolotova said that she had taken the online course in one breath. “It turned out to be very informative. Answering questions, I realized that I hadn't paid much attention to the subtext of publications before. It was great news for me that people with disabilities do not want to be singled out or helped. Through their independence in everyday life, they feel the fullness of life and their involvement in the entire society. I learned about regulations regarding people with disabilities and articles regulating their rights. I realized that I had not seen Braille signs in any building. The course is very useful not only for journalists, but also for every citizen to get deeper understanding of this topic”, she said.
This course is available to everyone in both the state and official languages; upon successful completion, everyone will receive a certificate, but the most important thing is knowledge of how to write, speak or conduct discussions on the topic of disability.
These activities are carried out within the framework of the UNDP and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland project “Towards Sustainable Access to Justice for Legal Empowerment in the Kyrgyz Republic”
by Nurzhan Alymkanova