Situation of Persons with Disabilities during January 2022 Events
Veniamin Alayev
Director of Commission on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Named after K. Imanaliyev (Public Association)
Full and effective participation of people with disabilities and their inclusion in society form one of the fundamental principles of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (hereinafter referred to as the Convention) adopted in the year 2006.

Article 29 of the Convention specifically stipulates the right to the participation in political life. According to this article, states shall ensure that persons with disabilities can effectively and fully participate in political and public life on an equal basis with others, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

This category of people is ready to participate in the social life and decision making processes on an equal basis with others, while all events that occur in the country also affect the situation of persons with disabilities.

According to article 11 of the Convention, States Parties shall take, in accordance with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law, all necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk, including situations of armed conflict, humanitarian emergencies and the occurrence of natural disasters.

The events of January 2022 impacted the life of the whole population of the country, including the life of persons with disabilities. Public disorders and imposition of the state of emergency in Kazakhstan revealed the need to strengthen the security of citizens, including persons with disabilities, without infringing their rights.

This policy brief has been aimed at providing a short summary of the violation of rights that affected persons with disabilities during the specified period and suggesting certain measures to ensure compliance with the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities when a state of emergency is introduced in the Republic of Kazakhstan.
International Standards
On February 20, 2015, President of the Republic of Kazakhstan N. Nazarbayev signed the Law “On Ratification the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”. The Convention itself was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 13, 2006.
The Convention seeks to eliminate discriminations against persons with disabilities and ensure their rights to labor, healthcare, education, full participation in the life of society, access to a fair trial, personal inviolability, freedom from exploitation and abuse, freedom of movement, and personal mobility.
The paper gives a special attention to the protection of the rights of women and children with disabilities for being one of the most vulnerable categories of the population that need social support.
As the Convention declares, States Parties shall take all proper measures to create effective legislative mechanisms to support the rights of persons with disabilities, including in the field of law-making, to ensure appropriate living standards for persons with disabilities and their participation in the political, social and cultural life of the country.
National Legislation
At present, the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities continues within the territory of Kazakhstan. Tens of laws underwent changes, and the country is currently following the National Plan on Ensuring the Rights and Improving the Quality of Life of Persons with Disabilities that runs through 2025 (hereinafter referred to as the National Plan). The goals of the National Plan focus at realizing the commitments assumed by the Republic of Kazakhstan with regard to the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as well as developing the inclusive society by creating a favorable environment for all vulnerable groups within the framework of the program of social modernization of Kazakhstan by the year 2030.
The Action Plan on ensuring the rights and improving the quality of life of people with disabilities in the Republic that covered the period from 2012 to 2018 (hereinafter referred to as the Action Plan) was implemented in three stage, having been aimed at creating conditions for the further implementation of the standards of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The major law, which serves to ensure rights and social protection of people with disabilities in Kazakhstan, is the Law “On Social Protection of Persons with Disabilities in the Republic of Kazakhstan”. This Law regulates public relationships in the sphere of social protection of people with disabilities in Kazakhstan and defines legal, economic and administrative conditions to ensure social protection of persons with disabilities and provide equal opportunities for their life activities and integration into society. At the same time, the current legislation contains a number of separate legal norms and provisions intended to guarantee the equality of the rights and opportunities in the best interests of persons with disabilities. In particular, they include:
1.    The Law “On Public Health and Healthcare System”, which envisages measures on the delivery of medical services to persons with disabilities;
2.    The Labor Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan, which establishes standards in terms of the arrangement of workplaces in consideration of individual peculiarities of people with disabilities, temporary transfer to other job for reasons of health, reduced work days, and suchlike;
3.    The Tax Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan, which offers tax preferences to persons with disabilities as well as to public associations of persons with disabilities;
4.    The Law “On Transport in the Republic of Kazakhstan”, which stipulates for the accessibility of passenger transportation for persons with disabilities; and
5.    The Law “On Education”, which contains provisions on the implementation of the inclusive education in the country.
Limitations and Violations of Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities during January Events
Striving to ensure security of the population of certain settlement zones during January events, the government introduced limitations on the movement around the city, operations of organizations, and access to the Internet. 

The author of this policy brief conducted an interview to uncover the situation of people with disabilities during January events. The interview, which involved 35 persons with disabilities, including wheelchair users, people with vision or hearing impairments, and persons with disabilities due to systemic diseases, from various regions, has revealed the following biggest issues:
●     No access to the official information, including the information provided in the format convenient for persons with disabilities
-       Cable TV did not work due to the lack of the Internet access, while not all houses had regular antennas to receive TV signal; 
-       Information on the state channels was not, as a rule, supported by sign-interpretation; 
-       Information that came as short text messages was written in Latin characters, and there were categories of persons with disabilities who could not read it since they did not know the Latin alphabet. 

●     No full access to medical services 
-       Persons with disabilities could not receive a full spectrum of services stipulated by their individual rehabilitation programs because healthcare institutions delivered emergency aid only.

●     No access to compensatory mobile online programs 
-       Persons with vision impairment could not use assistant programs on smartphones that enable them to read text, know their way around, etc.; 
-       Hearing challenged citizens had to visit each other to pass the information as access to messengers was blocked, while short text messages not always got through.

●     Impossibility to shop online 
-       The entire population of the country, including persons with disabilities, could not pay for their purchases online. That circumstance mainly affected people who cannot go out of their houses on their own.

●     Impossibility to go to work or work remotely from home 
-       Employed persons with disabilities, the same as all other citizens, did not go to work and could not work online, which led to the reduction of their salaries in January. 

●     No access to financial services 
-       Since all banks were closed, persons with disabilities could not cash out their disablement allowances. Thus, there were people who found themselves short of money during the state of emergency.

●     No public transport 
-       Due to the absence of any public transport in the cities, legal representatives of persons with disabilities had to find ways of moving around.
As reflected in the official documents, during the state of emergency the state had to protect the population, its life and health, by restricting certain rights, which affected each and every citizens without exception.
In the first place, such restrictions impacted persons with disabilities, who need individual care and personal assistance, and whose personal caregivers, the same as other citizens, could not leave their houses and attend to their patients, as they were in fear of their own lives during the said period.
At the same time, due to the Internet shutdown, people with disabilities could not use mobile assistant applications that usually help to support their maximum independence and access to information in the convenient format.
In the light of above, my recommendations are as follows:
1. To ensure that channels of public notification to be used during a state of emergency have information delivery formats, which would be convenient for persons with disabilities.
2. To conduct a comprehensive research on the impact of January events on the situation in the country, including the situation of persons with disabilities.
3. To study international practices of ensuring public security during a state of emergency with consideration to the implementation of human rights.
4. To initiate creating a national workgroup composed of the civil society representatives, including experts with disabilities as well as representatives of governmental authorities and security agencies, for their joint development of the Action Plan in a state of emergency, which would consider interests of persons with disabilities and comply with the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.