European Day on Independent Living marked in Montenegro: Right on Independent Living as Right to Freedom and Choice

Vujačić: U institucijama ne postoji usluga prevoda na znakovnom jeziku, a ni kadrovi koji su obučeni da ga koriste

The ceremony for celebrating the European day of Independent Living was held on 5. May 2023, at the Independence Square in Podgorica, the capital city of Montenegro. The ceremony was organized by the Association of Youth with Disabilities of Montenegro (AYDM), and the event was public and available for everyone interested to participate. The ceremony included the public speeches of the Executive Director of AYDM Mrs. Marina Vujačić, the young activist for the rights of persons with disabilities, Borjana Radulović, as well as Mr. Dejan Tmušić, from the Association for Paraplegic of Cetinje

The event started with the „simulation“ and presentation of the usage of Sign Language, performed by Mr. Dejan Tmušić, without the interpretation on standrad language so that those present remain deprived of information, as is the case with the persons with hearing impairment.

In her speech, Borjana Radulović said: „I have never had training in walking with the help of a white cane until now, because we do not have a peripathologist in Montenegro. I like to study a lot, and so far I have always had excellent grades, but I know that I will also face different barriers during University studies due to the lack of space, inaccessibility of literature for persons with visual impairments, and lack of support services. For me, being independent means the same as the right to freedom to choose, the right to live. In my everyday life, I often encounter disappointment and misunderstanding of the environment. I hope that my great desire to study, and I hope that one day I will be able to express myself in such a way as to be a valuable and active member of my community. I think, I will also need a teaching assistant, which requires the support of the system and society“. 

Borjana is a student of the first grade of high school, a legal-administrative major, at the Resource Center for Children and Youth in Podgorica. She has graduated from a junior music school. Borjana Radulović is 16 years old, a person with complete visual impairment, and an activist of the Association of Youth with Disabilities. 

Independent living should include all people and should be the core of growing up, maturing, and living, but people with disabilities (PWD) in Montenegro are still fighting for that right, stated Marina Vujačić.

„When it comes to PWDs, in Montenegro it is understandable  that they are less capable of making decisions, which is the essence of independent living. We don’t ask to do everything by ourselves, some of us can not, and we do not have to. There is no person in this world who can do everything by itself, just as there is no person who can do nothing by itself” stated Vujačić, and added that this is why PWDs need to speak about their right to Independent living, which needs to include, at first, the right to education, work, and economic independence.

„The stated is one of the key requirements for us to make decisions independently and implement them with the support of others when it is needed, and this support refers to institutions, which besides guarantees, are obliged to respect the human rights of PWDs. Specifically, this means that they are obliged to implement and enable support services for life in the community,” she said. Instead of this kind of support, in Montenegro, has been provided the support only through residential-type institutions, where PWDs are accommodated throughout their lives or stay in them for a long period of time, and this should not be the only option, because then, there is no choice for PWDs and their families. She added that, there is a small number of PWDs who are using the service of personal assistance, which is the prequired for independent living. 

She has invited the families of the PWDs to not be too protective of their members, because sometimes such behaviors are “destructive for them, and a person cannot develop and progress, which is contra-productive for their independent living. 

In regard to Government policies and representatives, she has stated that they are always welcome and that they were not invited to speak, because they have had enough time to work on what was required of them and which, is also their duty, and they could and the results could have been way better than the current situation.

„They have abolished the Directorate for the Protection of Persons with Disabilities from Discrimination, which existed in the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights in the past period, previously in the Ministry of Justice and Human and Minority Rights, and they have not yet formed a Council for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which would be another institutional mechanism of cooperation between disability rights organizations (DPOs) and the Government and state bodies, “ said Vujačić.

The event started with “simulation” of sign language by Mr. Dejan Tmušić. In regard to this, Vujačić has pointed out that the Association of Youth with Disabilities of Montenegro delivered the initiative for the adoption of the Law on sign language as a language in official use

„We are the only country in the region that does not have the Law on sign language. It’s not that we are lacking experience, or that we lack comparative practices and knowledge, but clearly there is a lack of willingness to take responsibility for a population that is very often placed in its own ghettos, because they were simply forced to rely on each other and neither to someone else besides these groups. Until now, there is no sign language translation service in the institutions of the system, nor are there any trained people who use sign language. There is a service called Sign language interpretation in the Law on Social and Child Protection, although it has never been put into practice/use. I also received information that the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare plans to delete this norm from the Law. I guess, something that is not implemented should be deleted from existence“, ironically said Vujačić

Mr. Tmušić has stated that he has learned sign language from his parents who were persons with hearing and speach impairments. „ I have felt their life and through them have faced barriers and prejudices they have encountered in society and how nonsensitive our society is especially its institutions“, he said. 

„Medical institutions do not have usage of sign language and we have examples of many doctors saying that these people do not cooperate with them. They cooperate with them, but medical institutions do not have sign language interpreters,” said Tmušić.

The event was attended by Ombudsperson Mr. Siniša Bjeković, and representatives of the Local Government, President of the Assembly Mrs. Jelena Borovinić Bojović, deputy mayor Mr. Luka Rakčević, and councilor Mr. Vasilije Čarapić, and many other public figures, persons with disabilities, and citizens.

The event was closed in nonformal discussion with all present public representatives, citizens, activists for human rights, and persons with disabilities. 

Sources: UMHCG, Portal Vijesti

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