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Kazakhstan resolves barriers for disabled
The country is improving access to infrastructure and social services.
By Alexandra Babkina
ALMATY – Kazakhstan has begun implementing its National Action Plan for 2012-2018 to protect the rights of and improve the quality of life of the disabled. The programme, which the Ministry of Labor and Social Security created together with NGOs and the UNDP, aims to help 500,000 Kazakhstanis.
“This program is unprecedented in Kazakhstan, and it was created to solve all the problems that the disabled experience – from the modernisation of apartments to employment and social integration,” explained Kaini Manabayeva, director of the Social Assistance Department at the Ministry of Labor and Social Security.
“The implementation of this plan will thus be an important step in the country’s transition to inclusive development.”
The budget for the seven-year National Plan is estimated at 150 billion KZT (US $1 billion), but this figure could increase, according to the ministry.
Inventory of buildings and infrastructure
Officials are implementing the first phase (2012-2013) of the National Plan. One of the first tasks is to inventory buildings, housing and transport infrastructure to assess accessibility. The results will determine how much work awaits and how much money to budget.
To develop the optimal framework for providing disabled access to buildings and transport facilities, starting in 2014, workers will begin building infrastructure access for the disabled in the pilot regions – East Kazakhstan Oblast, Astana, and Almaty. The work will begin in 2015 in other regions.
NGOs hope that these measures will allow wheelchair users to move more freely around the city.
“Kazakhstan’s cities are currently not suited to those with limited mobility,” said Kairat Imanaliyev, head of NAMYS, the Association for the Disabled with Higher Education. “The building ramp regulations have not changed, but they previously were not strictly enforced, and traffic lights with spoken announcements do not exist even where the (blind) need them the most – near akimats (city halls), clinics and rehabilitation centres. The action plan should get to the root of this problem.”
Railway stations will be among the first buildings to gain disabled access.
In early October, the Ministry of Transport and Communications, together with NGO representatives, discussed new standards of customer service on passenger trains and at train stations. As a result, officials decided to make the stations and platforms accessible to wheelchair users over the next two years.
In addition, by year’s end, workers will equip 90% of all passenger trains with wheelchairs so that the disabled can move through the cars.
“The first phase of the plan also includes modernising the apartments of the disabled,” Manabayeva said. “The doorways will be widened, doorsteps will be removed, and bathrooms and toilets will be refitted.”
Improvements linked to Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Kazakhstan started to address the problems facing the disabled more seriously as a result of its signing in 2008 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, according to observers. Work is under way on revising more than 30 laws to bring them in line with the convention’s requirements. By revising its laws to take into account the rights of the disabled and by implementing the National Plan, Kazakhstan will be able to ratify the convention in the next two years.
Any law or regulation regarding the disabled should be subject to a series of consultations with and a review by the disabled, according to the requirements of the National Plan.
“Right now our government is trying to bring itself in line with the informal motto of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 'Nothing about us without us,'” said Manabayeva.