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2004 Conference Archive
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Problems and perspectives of disability policy in Russia: The move from paternalism towards disability rights?

Elena Tarasenko, Institute of Sociology of Russian, Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia

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The construction of disability policy in USSR included the extensive social welfare system, pensions for disabled people, universal health care, free and environmental inaccessibility of education. People with disabilities were typically seen as objects of pity or compassion who require charity and services. But the period of paternalism in disability policy was finished.

Since 1991 the collapse of the USSR has brought a number of fundamental changes in the disability policy in Russia. Disabled people have meet with unexpected consequences of political and economic reforms in Russia. The transition to a market economy has brought a number of basic changes in the disability policy. These changes affect the status of people with disabilities profoundly. During the Eltzin's period severe economic and political crises, reduction of social protection, increasing unemployment - all this exerts a negative influence upon the chances for integration and full participation of the people with disabilities in social life.

In the Putin's era the disability policy in Russia is facing a triple set of problems:

  1. First of all, the reduction of social protection of the disabled took place in context of progressive worsening of the standard of living. Which resulted in broadening gap between rich and poor. At present disabled people are poor in our country.
  2. Laying the burden of the responsibility on the local government is producing progressive inequality of regions.
  3. Many of our dominant traditional cultural values about disability are themselves disabling. More over they create disabling disability policy in Russia. The experience of disabled people is invariably presented to us as 'personal tragedy', the impaired body or 'others'. Such values find their expression in contemporary Russian disability policy through a preoccupation with segregation, indirect discrimination, 'care', exclusive education, medicalisation and individualism.'

All these aspects will create instability in Russian disability policy in the future. As a result the trust of disabled people to the state have lessened.

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