1. GENERAL INFORMATION
The Estonian population is 1,4 millions, whereof 10% have some kind of disability. 50% of them are with mobility impairment – about 70 000 persons; 5%-10% of them are wheelchair users –about 3500-7000 persons. Children with physical disability –about 5000. There are no specific information about age and sex. Approximately 1/3 of the Estonian population have an ethnic background other than Estonian. Women tend to be generally more active in the disability movement. Physically disability movement started developing in the end of 1980-ies, when disability issues were brought into daylight. The Estonian society has been rapidly developing, and there have been big changes during a short period. Development of the society has taken the disability perspective into account, but the existing legislation is not enforced, the monitoring of enforcement of the legislation is insufficient, there are often no sufficient financial means to provide services and investments into technical improvement of the social field is insufficient. The positive results of the transition period is that disability has become more visible in the society, but the big changes in the society have caused a lot of social problems, what also affect disabled people as a vulnerable group.
Investments into removal of physical barriers are needed – the new legislation and policies are taking disabled individuals into account quite strongly, but investments into social field do not follow. The fact is that since 1990-ies the percentage of social expenditure of the GDP has decreased each year. 16.05.1995 the Estonian government approved the National Disability Concept - what was targeted to secure implementation of UN Standard Rules in Estonia. There is no special non-discrimination legislation in Estonia yet, but § 12 the Estonian constitution says that: Everyone is equal before the law. No one shall be discriminated against on the basis of nationality, race, color, sex, language, origin, religion, political or other opinion, property or social status, or on other grounds. Directive on Buses and Coaches The Estonian Ministry of Economics and Communication is currently reviewing, how the European Parliament and Council Directive 2001/85/EC provisions are covered in the national legislation. Currently the discussion is ongoing with The Estonian Union of People with Mobility Impairment and the Ministry. The Union highlights the following needs in connection with legislation: demands on accessibility of disabled people to public buildings; transportation benefits; technical aids; the state should secure stable financing for the disability movement.
3. INSTITUTIONAL BACKGROUND
The main body responsible for people with disabilities is the Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs. The ministry does not have a separate disability unit. Currently the competences are divided as follows: national level is responsible for disability benefits; regional level is responsible for technical aids; local level is responsible for services for people with disabilities: personal assistance, transportation etc. The Estonian network of disability organisations is funded by means of Gambling Taxation.
4.ORGANIZATIONS OF PHYSICALLY DISABLED PEOPLE
The Estonian disability movement is organised so that there are nation-wide disability specific NGO-s (at the moment 30 NGO-s operating nation-wide) and additionally 16 regional boards of disabled people, representing disability in each of the 15 Estonian counties and in the capital of Estonia – Tallinn. The Estonian Union of Persons with Mobility Impairment (ELIL) was established in 1989 and is a non-profit union. Disability movement was also present during the period before regaining the Estonian independence. 1980 the movement of mobility impaired people had its start – when the State Organisation of Motorists allowed sections for drivers of adapted cars. ELIL is umbrella organisation for people with mobility impairment in Estonia. The Union has 26 member organisations altogether about 3500 persons. Since 1994 is the ELIL member of FIMITIC.
The development in Estonia favours that disabled children are taught in integrated schools. There is also specialised school for the children with mobility impairment. Main aims and demands of the physically disability movement: to improve accessibility of schools; education system securing flexibility of the workforce, competitiveness and life-long learning available for all; to change attitudes among teachers and encourage municipalities to provide personal assistant services for children attending education at integrated schools.
6. EMPLOYMENT AND VOCATIONAL TRAINING
There are very many disabled people who are unemployed. Tax system does not provide any reductions what might stimulate employers to engage disabled people. Estonia does not have a supported employment system for people with disabilities. There in not sufficient supported employment and sheltered employment options for people with disabilities. Bad accessibility of the transport and built environment make it difficult or impossible for disabled people to come to work or to school; employing a disabled person, the employer will have extra costs and there is no system what compensates for those extra costs.
The accessibility is in Estonian case most often understood as accessibility of built environment and transportation. The accessibility of building is covered by the low Planning and Building Act where disabled people are mentioned separately in § 43. Rooms for public use in structures shall be accessible to and usable by persons with mobility disabilities and other disabled persons. Access to public websites; access to information & telecommunications technologies are the matters what currently have not been focused on so much.
8. SERVICES FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABLITIES
According to the law on Social care (§26) are the municipalities responsible for securing equal opportunities, active participation on the society and independent living for people with disabilities. This should happen through health care, rehabilitation, training and interpretation services. The service provision is varying very much due to the economic possibilities and the size of the municipality where the disabled person lives. The level of services is also dependent of the attitudes in the municipality.
9. SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS
The total number of the disabled persons recipients of the disability pensions in January 2003 was 51300. Social Benefits For Disabled People Act, which was implemented in 2001, has two main aims: to compensate individuals for the extra costs of being disabled and to facilitate rehabilitation.
10. HEALTH AND REHABILITATION ISSUES
In the health sector there are no specific provisions for people with disabilities. The medical treatment is provided based on the needs of the person for treatment. The rehabilitation system has been reformed and is developing, but does not meet the needs of people with disabilities, as so much more rehabilitation is needed.