GYLA was representing a blind individual, V.K. whose registration in the database of socially vulnerable individuals was canceled on grounds that he withheld information when he filled out a declaration. V.K. provided detailed information to the Social Agency for filing out a declaration, however due to his blindness he was unable to read the information included by the social agent in the declaration. Instead, the social agent read to him all the data entered in the declaration, V.K. trusted the agent and signed the document. Later it turned out that the agent had failed to include all the information in the declaration. As a result, V.K.’s registration was canceled.
Order no.141/n of the Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia, dated 20 May 2010, provides the rules for evaluation of social/economic status of socially vulnerable families but it does not prescribe different rules for reading one’s own declaration if the individual concerned has specific needs. Although the rules are general and neutral, they do not ensure reasonable accommodation for individuals who are blind. Therefore, on behalf of a person with disability GYLA applied to the Public Defender in 2017 and requested finding of the act of discrimination.
The Public Defender found discrimination based on disability and explained: “the Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs does not consider special needs of blind and visually impaired individuals with regard to accessing information and it does not fulfill its positive obligation to take measures to ensure meaningful equality for persons with disabilities.” Certain documents are not available in Braille or through other alternative modes. “Neutral practice of the state towards individuals who are blind may bring negative results and disproportionally affect involvement of visually impaired or blind persons in public life including their personal autonomy and, in individual cases, their social/economic status; it may hinder participation of persons with disabilities and their inclusion and make their exclusion from the society easier.”
Based on recommendations prepared by the Public Defender, the Ministry was ordered to ensure the following:
- For the purpose of registration in the single database of socially vulnerable families, declaration about family’s social status should be available in Braille or through any other technical means and the act that regulates this issue should be amended accordingly;
- Information about social/health programs for persons with disabilities should be available in Braille, sign language, through augmentative, alternative and/or other accessible modes.