Message of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities

More than being a “disability matter”, the active and independent living of persons with disabilities is a common issue for the whole society: we must create a social environment that can identify the real needs of people living with disabilities in all life situations, stressed the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights. According to Dr. Ákos Kozma, in order to effectively guarantee equal opportunities, it is not enough to prescribe it by law, but rather, it is the integrative mentality of society that can promote full-range integration. The Ombudsman calls attention to the importance of disability-focused measures and the promotion of a continuous change of attitude.

In 1992, the UN declared 3 December the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. There are nearly 650 million people around the world who live with disabilities, while in Hungary almost 600 thousand people live with a lasting harm to their health or disabilities. For persons with disabilities around the world, it was a huge leap forward when on 13 December 2006, the UN approved the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) – an agreement hammered out as a result of nearly ten years of work – which Hungary was among the first to join, thus the fundamental human rights principles thereof came into force already on 3 May 2008 in our country. This was a significant step in the constitutional protection of persons with disabilities in Hungary.

Ombudsmen at all times have the obligation to monitor the issues of persons with disabilities, conduct both individual and comprehensive inquiries, pay regular visits to care institutions for the disabled, assess the signals of civil society organizations from the perspective of fundamental rights, as well as to initiate the necessary legislative actions and application of the law. In the course of his work, the Ombudsman often comes across problems of specific vulnerable social groups in the form of complaints. The enforcement of the fundamental rights of children living with disabilities and their families is an important message, especially when their social inclusion is hindered by obstacles arising from general mentality, and lacking resources. This is why it is indispensable to acquaint ourselves with the real needs of children and adults living with disabilities so that we could identify them; it is common experience that the obstacles making their everyday life difficult derive, in fact, more from their environment than their disabilities.

 In 2020 nearly all groups of the persons living with disabilities came into focus, as fundamental rights-related inquiries were conducted in relation to specific individual complaints. As the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights had also pointed out in his message delivered last year on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, it was the enforcement of the right to human dignity that was in the centre of attention. The most often raised issues pertaining to the institution of custodianship and the world of residential care institutions were the problems of independent living. Moreover, the problems of persons with disabilities received more attention due to the difficulties experienced in the appropriate education and development of disabled children. Children suffering from autism spectrum disorder constitute a special group, but psychiatric patients qualifying as persons with psychosocial disabilities also run into countless obstacles during their care. Recurring issues include the chance of the disabled to appear in the labour market, as well as the sensitivity of the higher education system.
Finally, among the goals of legal protection for persons with disabilities, it is quintessential to ensure equality before the law, and promote equal treatment and independent living, thereby turning the principles of the CRPD into reality. Ombudsman Dr. Ákos Kozma considers all of these as his key priority.