MPs debate the problems facing people with special needs who need legal services
A member of the cross-party group of Duma Deputies concerned with issues affecting disabled people, Deputy Chairman of the All-Russian Association of the Blind, Oleg Smolin, said at a round table on the rights of people with disabilities to have access to notarial and other legal services that he receives a lot of complaints from people that notaries refuse to witness signatures by sight-impaired people. Very often banks, registry offices, and other institutions refuse to accept signatures of blind and sight-impaired people, demanding that notaries witness them. The Deputy considers that this is a breach of their rights and of Article 7 of the Law on civil status declarations. However, as far as sight-impaired people are concerned, the law is not clearly enough drafted, and as a result some notaries interpret it their own way. A lawyer in the NGO Volnitsa, Sergei Perepadya, who coordinates a project promoting the ratification and implementation by Russia of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Stavropol Region, said that all kinds of people with disabilities experience problems in undertaking legal acts. Almost all notarial offices are inaccessible to them, and if a notary agrees to visit them at home, they are charged more. A representative of another organisation for people with special needs, Perspectiva, Maksim Larionov, said that poor professional training of signing interpreters has led to problems for people with hearing problems in court. For example, such a person was sent to prison instead of having a suspended sentence because he had not understood that he needed to present himself regularly at the police station. Larionov thought that there needs to be a law on signing and on the legal recognition of sign language, such as is the case in other countries.
The head of a department of research into educational psychology in education of children and young people with special and developmental needs in the Institute of Educational Integration of the Moscow Pedagogical University, Roman Zhavoronkov, said that the law guarantees accessibility for disabled people to social welfare facilities, but no-one sees to it that the law is enforced. He suggested that licences for notarial offices and similar services should only be granted if they provide proper access for people with mobility problems. A representative of the Nizhny Novgorod regional organization for cultural and social rehabilitation of wheelchair users and others with mobility challenges, Invatur, Dmitry Balykhin, proposed that Braille should be used in public institutions and offices, as is required under the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Round table participants said that for it to be ratified, there would need to be a government programme to implement the provisions of the Convention, including access to notarial services. The full text of the record of the round table will be available on the website www.perspektiva-inva.ru/.