Russians treat disabled people worse than the Europeans do.

According to the WHO, one child in every 700 is born with Down’s syndrome worldwide.  The charity ‘Downside Up’ says that in Russia, around 2,500 children are born with Down’s every year. According to statistics, 85% of families reject a child with the condition straight after birth on the advice of the doctor. In Moscow, this figure is 50%. Adoptions of children with Down’s syndrome are rare in Russia. Meanwhile, in Europe and America the number of rejections does not exceed 5%.

In 2009, the average life expectancy in Europe for people with Down’s syndrome was 64 years. In Russia, statistics are not available. The figure was announced during a video conference between Moscow and London titled ‘People with Down’s syndrome in the modern world’, organised by the charity ‘Downside Up’, another charity which works with children living in difficult circumstances, and the news agency RIA (Russian Information Agency). Bertran Beinwel, the representative of UNICEF, has said that the increase in life expectancy for Europeans with Down’s is the result of a changing social environment. According to Veronik Garrett, the founder of ‘Downside Up’, in Britain, people with Down’s syndrome are fully integrated into society: they are educated in mainstream nurseries and schools, they find employment. In European countries, there is an established system that places children with Down’s in foster families. The families receive help from governments. Natalya Karpovich, the deputy chair of the State Duma Committee for Families, Women and Children, thinks a similar system should be set up in Russia. In addition, disabled children, including those with Down’s syndrome should have the opportunity to study by distance learning and to attend mainstream schools.

Aleksandr Lysenko, member of the Council for Disabled Persons under the chairmanship of the Federation Council and member of the Coordinating Council for Disabled Persons, considers it necessary to bring Russian legislation into line with the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. “According to our estimates, about twenty legislative acts need to be revised. Firstly, there needs to be a federal law on social protection for disabled people. The Ministry of Health and Social Development, the State Duma, and officials of the Russian Federation should have looked into this matter a long time ago. However, there is still a gap between the public and the government with regards to a social partnership” said Lysenko. He also noted that Russians are far behind Europeans in their attitudes towards disabled people. According to a 2009 survey, 50% of Russians see disabled people as very different, 27% said that disabled people are not integrated into society, and 20% considered them to be a burden on society.

Translated by Lina Numan

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