Children with disabilities
Children with disabilities still have difficulties in gaining access to education, participation in public life, and UNICEF sees addressing these difficulties its priority in Kazakhstan
In Kazakhstan, protection of the rights of children with disabilities is ensured by a number of enactments. In 2015, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was ratified, and in 2017 the first report on the observance of the rights of persons with disabilities was submitted to the UN Committee. However, in everyday life, children with disabilities still experience difficulties in gaining access to education and participation in public life.
Only 3% of children in Kazakhstan are registered as those with disabilities and special needs. This rate is significantly inferior to other countries of the world where it is 10-15% of children. This difference is primarily due to the difference in the approach to identify children with disabilities across countries - the approach of Kazakhstan still considers the health-related aspect of disability.
In addition, a significant number of children with hidden, unregistered disabilities and special needs remain unrecorded due to still existing social barriers, such as discrimination against disabilities and accompanying barriers to accessing services, social life and sports. As a result, parents of children with disabilities often are reluctant to report disability, as the family may face social stigma and isolation.
Currently children with disabilities are considered as vulnerable segments of the population, but not as potentially active and valuable members of society. Discrimination and negative attitude towards disability remain in all spheres of life: words and expressions used to describe disability speak about existing stereotypes that interfere with inclusion
One of the goals of UNICEF in Kazakhstan is to ensure that the rights and interests of absolutely all children with disabilities and special needs are respected, considered at the legislative level, and implemented through joint social inclusion and financial aid programs. Despite the first positive changes in legislation and improvement of benefits and services, so far only 28.6% of children with a registered disability are covered by special social services. In rural areas, the vulnerability of adolescents with disabilities, their social exclusion, and economic hardships are exacerbated by limited access to rehabilitation services. The most important task, along with the improvement of social services and benefits for children with disabilities, is creation of an inclusive environment - conditions for joint learning and leisure - allowing children and adolescents with disabilities to adapt to the society, as well as giving impetus to overcome stigmatization of disability arising on the ground of isolation.
UNICEF recognizes disability as a part of the “human development” concept and focuses on equity and rights of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children and families. A human rights approach helps to detect systematic and diverse reasons for exclusion of children with disabilities from the development process and to identify measures for addressing the identified gaps.