The research “Education and Community Living as a Precondition of Equality of Children with Disabilities” was carried out in the period from May to October 2015 within the project “Children with Disabilities in Residential Institutions as Victims of Multiple Discrimination”. The aim of the project is to contribute to the fight against discrimination against children with disabilities in the education system, and it is implemented by the Mental Disabilities Rights Initiative MDRI-S in partnership with the Initiative for Inclusion VelikiMali and cooperation with the Commissioner for Protection of Equality. The project is supported by the European Union under the Civil Society Facility 2013.
The research has provided new insights into educational status of children with disabilities who live in residential institutions, and given a more detailed picture of the situation, but also the perception of the employees in the institutions of social protection and education of respect for the fundamental rights of children with disabilities.
In fact, more than half of children with disabilities in residential care are excluded from educational system, additional aggravating circumstances are present such as a limited number of schools that cooperate with the homes, a limited number of places in school for children from homes, architectural barriers, lack of additional support. All the children included in the research attend schools for children with disabilities, specifically no child attends a regular school.
However, the barriers that are even more serious are negative attitudes of employees in homes and schools towards education of children with disabilities and the prevailing medical model in the assessment of a child’s needs. Of particular importance to us are the insights into ensuring equality of children with disabilities in institutional care, that is, the fact that they are not exercising their right to education on an equal basis with others.
We hope that this research will open a discussion on the necessity to improve education for children with disabilities and provide a family environment for children who are now in institutions. MDRI-S will use research findings and formulated recommendations to continue to advocate the rights of children with disabilities, as well as to propose measures to improve practices and public policies with a view to achieving equality of children with disabilities in Serbia.
Mental Disability Rights Initiative of Serbia (MDRI-Serbia) is an advocacy organization dedicated to the human rights and full participation in society of children and adults with mental disabilities in Serbia. Mental Disability Rights Initiative (MDRI-S) is an affiliate of Disability Rights International. MDRI-Serbia promotes citizen participation, awareness and oversight for the rights of persons with intellectual and mental disabilities, and participates in development of mental disability rights advocacy and self-advocacy movement in Serbia. The organization’s special focus is on those children and adults who are at risk of or who are already residing in social and mental health institutions, since they represent the most endangered and marginalized groups.
Participation of persons with mental disabilities and their families presents is the only guarantee for protection of their rights. Only strengthened persons with mental disabilities and their families, through their participation in all decision-making processes dealing with their lives, can secure long-lasting sustainability. Nevertheless, persons with mental disabilities will always need some level of support to retain ownership over their lives. This much needed support should come from the society as a whole; however, the specific role of civil society organizations is to provide these individuals with support in capacity building and advocacy actions.
MDRI-Serbia has involved parents of persons with intellectual disabilities in legislative processes, ensuring their participation in development of the Law on professional rehabilitation and employment of persons with disabilities and General Education Act, both already adopted. Currently, MDRI-Serbia staff is participating in the development of the Law on social welfare. MDRI-Serbia with its partners also provides professional and legal support information for persons with intellectual disabilities and their families, especially in two areas crucial for prevention of institutionalization: inclusive education and legal capacity issues.
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