Persons with disabilities remain one of the most excluded and marginalised groups in Georgian society, but public perceptions are changing. Georgians have become more accepting of persons with physical disabilities but continue to stigmatize intellectual disability.
These are the main findings of research commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and conducted by the Institute of Social Studies and Analysis (ISSA) that was presented today to representatives of Government, civil society, disability organizations and international agencies.
The research shows an increasing awareness among Georgians that disability is widespread and a consensus that it should not be a barrier to enjoying basic human rights or participating in community life. More than half of all Georgians say they are aware of the rights and needs of persons with disabilities and 59 percent know personally someone with a disability. Two-thirds of Georgians agree that people with disabilities can achieve as much success in learning as other members of society and half of respondents say they believe that people with disabilities are able to live independently.
But 43 percent still consider providing care for PwDs as an expression of good will rather than a Government obligation, and one-third believe that disability rights are already fully realized in Georgia.
“We have seen big changes in public attitudes, but there is still work to be done to ensure that Georgians see persons with disabilities not as objects of charity but rather as fellow citizens who deserve equal access to education, employment and community life,” said UNDP Head Louisa Vinton.
Lela Akiashvili, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Human Rights and Gender Equality, and ISSA Head Iago Kachkachishvili took part in a discussion moderated by Deputy Public Defender Eka Skhiladze.
The UNDP research explores public attitudes in seven areas: awareness, stigma and stereotypes, education, employment, rights and privileges, basic needs and social integration, and state policies.
The results show that people with physical disabilities enjoy a high level of acceptance in Georgia. Three-fourths of Georgians say they would feel comfortable working with someone with a physical disability, and 70 percent say they would accept a person with a physical disability in a decision-making position, for example as a member of the Parliament.
However, acceptance drops dramatically for persons with mental or intellectual disabilities . Less than half of respondents would accept persons with mental or intellectual impairments as co-workers (47 percent), as next-door neighbours (36 percent) or classmates to their children (48 percent). More than half are convinced that people with mental disabilities should not have children.
The research also reveals that Georgians expect more support for persons with disabilities from the Government. The vast majority of the respondents think that the state should promote inclusive education in schools, vocational colleges and universities (70 percent), create inclusive infrastructure (85 percent) and increase assistance to PwDs (82 percent). 72 percent agree that the representation of persons with disabilities must be promoted at all levels of governance.
The research is part of a USD 2 million joint programme to improve social protection for persons with disabilities, implemented by six UN agencies with the resources available though the United Nation’s Fund for Sustainable Development Goals.
UNDP has been assisting Georgia for over a decade in protecting the rights of persons with disabilities and building a more inclusive society, working in partnership with the Government, UN agencies and other national and international actors.