Self-advocacy for intellectual disabled big issue in Bulgaria
Donika (l) and Alexander (r)
BAPID was established 25 years ago by parents of intellectual disabled people and professionals who work with them. Its aim is to improve the situation of the intellectual disabled people in Bulgaria. BAPID is a network of 41 local member organizations of which parents, professionals and adults with an intellectual disability can become member. It covers 110 municipalities. BAPID has a national representation and is recognized by the government as an official interlocutor.
Donika works as a project manager at BAPID and is
mainly occupied with the subject of advocacy. According to Donika, BAPID succeeded
in making significant improvements for the target group. However not all
achievements are visible yet and there always remain points to work on. The
government adopted documents stating that people with an intellectual
disability should not live in special institutions. They must get the chance to
live on their own with the help of community support. Thats the general direction.
However, in practice there are a lot of difficulties to realize this in
Bulgaria. People without an intellectual disability must get more information
about the target group, so they get along with them well. People with an
intellectual disability have become more visible over the years. Not all
non-disabled accept people with an intellectual disability totally. With the
transition from institutions to community living this has already improved. More
services must become available for the target group and general services must
become more accessible. The main obstacle for the target group is the fact they
are not entitled to take their own decisions. They stand under guardianship which
means they have nothing to say with regard to their finances and they are for
example not entitled to vote. This directly effects their quality of life. BAPID
strives for more legal rights for the intellectual disabled. At the moment,
there is no governmental support to realize this. We made proposals to the
parliament and they spoke about it. After that, the government fell and a new
parliament came which had to start the discussion again.
People with an intellectual disability are being
supported to stand up for their rights and to tell themselves what they need to
have a good life. In 2015 we created the national platform of self-advocates.
This network has 30 members at the moment. It must grow and the members have to
be instructed more thoroughly how to fight for their rights. Each year, a
seminar is being organized at which the members discuss with each other about
the path to follow. Besides self-advocacy BAPID works on establishing services
like early intervention. A methodology that helps parents to stimulate the
development of small children who have a learning disability or a lack in their
Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities states that persons with a disability enjoy legal capacity in all aspects of life just like non-disabled. Its especially this article BAPID uses in her work for supporting self-advocacy. BAPID is a member of the National Council for people with disabilities as well as a full member of Inclusion Europe, Inclusion International and the European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities. BAPID actively participates in national, European and international events for protecting the rights of people with intellectual disabilities.
Donika works from a small office in the centre of Sofia. Besides Donika theres one other employee who works from there and the Executive Director, Sonya Vladimirova. I did not meet her that Friday. She was giving a training on Supported decision making for people with an intellectual disability. And there is Alexander. Alexander has an intellectual disability and cleans the office. I also spoke to Alexander about his life in Sofia and his big dream: becoming a sports trainer for intellectual disabled children.
I am 43 years old. Before I started to work for BAPID,
eight years ago, I did a lot of sports: swimming, table tennis, badminton,
judo, skiing, swimming. Nowadays, I only swim. I joined the Special Olympics as
a Bulgarian sportsman several times. The first time was in LA, 1994, which was
my best experience too. I made a lot of friends then.
Ivo (l) and Iva (r)
The creativity atelier where Iva normally works
Example of products they make. As one can see, these
are products for all kinds
The ironing and washing room. Left: the working clothesCopyright text and pics: Johan Peters, May 2019 - ...