(continued from previous Monday issue)
Blind people and the problems they face in Georgia
By Esma Gumberidze
Monday, May 5
How Georgian laws fail the blind and disabled
Another issue in Georgia for the blind is the lack of laws obliging private, profit and nonprofit organizations to provide the necessary and proper accommodations for disabled persons.
Georgian legislation obligates only public organizations to provide accommodations for disabled people. Unlike the Soviet Union, where a person had to deal mainly with governmental organizations, in modern Georgia, people deal mostly with private, non-governmental, profit and non-profit organizations.
So, because private organizations aren't legally obligated to accommodate, it turns out, that a disabled person's right to have equal access to all services available for the rest of society, is not protected and provided in most aspects of a disabled person's life.
Because Free University of Tbilisi is a private college, it legally wasn't obligated to hire an aide for me. The university administration did it because of their good will and I'm really grateful for that. But disabled person's rights while dealing with private organizations shouldn't be left to only an organization's good will. There are legal difficulties related to a blind person's signature.
Today, a person from school 202 called me and told me that he went to the bank to order a card he had a problem. He can't sign his name in print, so his grandmother with his oral agreement was going to sign his name, but the bank officer didn't receive document saying this. So he should somehow sign by himself, otherwise the procedure will be illegal.
I've heard a Facebook post of one young lady, who now is working for an organization that advocates for people with disabilities and their rights. She wrote that when she wanted to open a bank account, because she couldn't sign her name, the bank refused to open an account for her, unless she brings someone who has her statement of trust to put a signature on documentation instead of her.
According to Georgian legislation, if a person is blind or for other reasons can't independently sign their name, the signing process should involve a lawyer, and if the blind person can't visit a lawyer every time they need to sign a paper, they have to make a general trust statement for another person who will sign instead of blind every time.
Well, every such procedure involving lawyer costs money and is time-consuming. It's really hard to run to a lawyer every time you just need to sign a paper. Concerning general trust statement that would relief a blind person from signing inconveniences I can say, that a person who was granted with trust statement might not be always nearby, when blind person needs to sign something.
Often blind people move around and visit organizations with the help of many different people (parents, relatives, friends, or whoever is available). What should a blind person not capable of signing their name do if they need to provide their signature? I'm blind from birth and I couldn't learn how to put my signature so that my name would be detectable. So, some legal measures have to be done to ease the signing process for the blind, and to put blind and sighted people in more equal conditions when signing their names.
The biggest issue though, is a general indifference to their job responsibilities of those in charge. This indifference to their job duties has influence not only on persons with disabilities. It’s a general social problem in Georgia.
Good examples of indifference related to the blinds' interests are:
• The broken fence that for about two years, has been broken by kids from the street, which belongs to Tbilisi # 202 public school for the blind and still apparently nobody pays attention to school fence's destruction, nobody tries to stop it and nobody hurries to repair it;
• The school’s roof that was changed only about three years ago and perhaps turned to be of so bad quality, that it's already being changed again (if such indifference has place when 202 school is located in the city centre, what kind of indifference will the school face in case of its moving away in the outskirts);
One of the employees of the ministry of education told my mother that blind kids don't need to go abroad to learn languages, because they can learn them in Georgia, and besides, they won't be able to see anything there, so for the blind it makes no difference.
So, to make things better for blind people and for the rest of our country, it's vital that everybody in charge (regardless of occupation, salary size, amount of power concentrated in his/her hands) does at least 80% of their job duties, as well as political and social will.