The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that approximately 10% of the global population has some form of disability. This statistic is also reflected in Montenegro, where data from the 2011 Census of Population, Households and Dwellings conducted by Monstat indicates that 11% of the Montenegrin population, equivalent to 68,064 individuals, face challenges in their daily activities due to long-term illness, disability, or age. These individuals encounter difficulties in carrying out essential daily tasks or participating in various activities. It was during this census that data on the existence of such difficulties in performing activities of daily living were collected for the first time.
The process of assessing and determining disabilities is an official procedure necessary to establish eligibility for services, products, or benefits. It serves as the gateway through which individuals seeking disability-related support, whether provided publicly or privately, must pass. In Montenegro, the system of disability assessment and determination has been characterized by complexity, decentralization, lack of coordination, and reliance on an outdated medical model. To address this issue, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is collaborating with Montenegrin authorities and receiving support from the European Union to bring about positive change in this area.
Ismar Ramović, a diligent and cheerful worker from Tuzi, is someone every employer would want to have on their team, as described by Nebojša Milikić, his employer. After completing his education, Ismar waited patiently for almost three years before finding employment. Today, he is one of ten individuals with disabilities working for the company, where he specializes in crafting souvenirs. “I enjoy working with machines. We create boxes, baskets, and magnets. We cut and assemble them. It’s a pleasant environment to work in; I feel right at home,” shares Ismar.
To secure his right to work, Ismar had to navigate through lengthy and intricate procedures, similar to others with disabilities. Apart from the medical assessment, Ismar also had to face two additional disability assessment commissions. “Meeting those commissions makes me anxious. I worry because I’m unsure if they will approve my allowance,” he expresses.
With support from the “Reform of the National Disability Assessment System” project, funded by the EU and implemented by UNDP in collaboration with the Montenegrin Government and NGOs, a centralized assessment process is being established to evaluate disabilities and the needs of all individuals with disabilities. This reform aims to simplify procedures and eliminate over 30 different commissions.
The primary objective of this reform is to facilitate the exercise of rights for people with disabilities in a more fair manner. The medical model will be replaced by a disability assessment model based on human rights. As a result, over 50,000 individuals with disabilities in Montenegro will experience greater ease in exercising their rights, with significantly reduced administrative procedures.
“I wish I could complete everything, all administrative procedures, in one place without having to wait. I’m not fond of crowds and waiting,” expresses Ismar. In Montenegro, individuals with intellectual disabilities often face a lack of understanding, support, and acceptance from society. However, Ismar’s experience is different. “I socialize with my colleagues at work, and we often go for coffee together. Sometimes we even play football or basketball,” he adds.
According to his employer, Nebojša, Ismar has made remarkable progress and has become an integral part of the team. “Through his work and accomplishments, he contributes not only to himself and our company but also to society as a whole. The contribution of the remaining 15 employees cannot outweigh the contributions made by Ismar and other individuals with disabilities who work here,” states Nebojša.
The government provides benefits to employers who hire individuals with disabilities, including salary subsidies and funds for workplace adaptations. “It is crucial to tailor tasks according to their abilities, and success is guaranteed. I encourage all employers to follow my example and employ people with disabilities. I am confident they won’t regret it,” encourages Nebojša.
About the project
The specific objective of the EU funded “Reform of the National Disability Assessment System” project is the reform of the national Disability Assessment and Determination System. The reform will enable persons with disabilities to enjoy fair treatment, easier and equal access to all social security entitlements and better social inclusion prospects. With this the project is aiming to achieve the following results: Development and adoption of new standardized, unified, national functionalities/abilities-based criteria for disability and Institutional rightsizing reorganization – by downsizing of current 26 Commissions (with about 120 remunerated expert associates) to one unique Commission.
Photo Credits: Duško Miljanić, UNDP Montenegro
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