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Social Services Portal for PWDs in Kazakhstan: Decisions Made without Recipient’s Involvement

The portal has been operating in the pilot mode in Aktobe region of Kazakhstan for three months. However, final recipients say the website is not functioning, while the new system is full of defects.

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Kazakhstan ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2015. According to it, the state guarantees the right to inclusive education at all levels. Also, the education law guarantees Kazakhstanis equal rights to quality education and access to education based on intellectual development, psychophysiological and individual peculiarities.

The authorities try to create equal conditions for children of various categories at schools. According to the state programme of development in education for 2011-2020, a portion of schools that have created conditions for inclusive education should reach 70 per cent of total number. And the portion of schools with barrier-free environment for children with disabilities should reach up to 20 per cent.

Every year the budget allocates 323 billion tenge (831.4 thousand dollars) to support persons with special needs.

Anatoly Migai is blind since birth. He studied at a special school, graduated from the law college, earned bachelor’s and then master’s degrees: 

Modern technologies make it possible for us to access the information space. For example, you can put a book, printed text on the reading machine  and it will read it out loud. A laptop with a screen reader allows me to write texts, create documents. The Braille display allows to read texts with fingers, write without audio cues.

Anatoly Migai. Photo: CABAR.asia

I decided to enter college after school. They didn’t want to accept me, but my parents insisted on my admission. My first year was very hard for lecturers – they didn’t know what to do about me.

I had 15 disciplines back in my college and I didn’t have a PC or other equipment, so I used to write everything by hand. I studied as best as I could, I didn’t have anyone to ask for advice from. I slept three hours a day and rewrote notes at home.

I was mastering the new equipment for six months. When I mastered it, I managed to do my assignments for one week in advance. I was printing out my texts on the Braille printer, and the only shortcoming was that I used too much paper. I graduated from the college with diploma with distinction, and then I entered the university of law.

According to the legislation, technical aids should be provided out of the republican budget. However, the system of state procurements is based on the lowest price principle, which affects the quality of equipment.

In recent years, officials change the procedure of receipt of special aids and shorten the list of special aids. For example, until 2017 blind and visually impaired people were given the following aids:

  • A personal computer,
  • A display,
  • A reading machine,
  • A scanner,
  • A printer,
  • Software,
  • A modem.  

One such set costs about 5 million tenge (12.8 thousand dollars) and every blind person could receive a visual impairment kit under the social welfare programme. But after 2017, the funding was curtailed and the list was significantly shortened. Now the social welfare programme provides only screen reader and a laptop to visually impaired people.

In 2019, the authorities decided to create a social services portal for persons with disabilities, which they can use to choose technical aids and health resort institutions on their own.

At the meeting with PWDs on March 15, Vice Prime Minister of Labour and Social Protection of People of the Republic of Kazakhstan Svetlana Zhakupova mentioned the allocation of extra 18 billion tenge (46.5 million dollars) for 100 per cent access to technical aids for rehabilitation.

“A person will be choosing based on the specific amount available to them from the budget. If a person chooses a more advanced aid, they should pay an extra amount at their own cost. It’s not only about technical aids for rehabilitation, it’s about the services provided by a social worker, individual assistant and health resort treatment,” Zhakupova said at the press conference (as cited from 24.kz). 

Pilot mode

The social services portal was launched in pilot mode on July 1 in Aktobe region. The service will start working at the end of the year across Kazakhstan. However, final recipients are not confident these innovations will improve their lives.

“Officials say they would allocate funds, but if a person wants to buy something of better quality, the person can add extra money.  But the majority of visually impaired people are unemployed and live on welfare. They don’t have money to buy expensive equipment,” Anatoly Migai said.

Visually impaired Musagali Dauylov lives in Aktobe region and this year he was given an inappropriate player for visual impaired users. The health resort treatment tender was held incorrectly. According to him, only one company, which lacked accessible environment for PWDs, was among bidders for the first time. The tender was successfully held only from the fifth time among three organisations, including the first one.

This was the lobbying of one company without accessible environment for the disabled persons. The same would happen to the portal, where only one company would be offered without any other option.

We asked them to turn social services into cash payments so that our account receives cash to avoid corruption schemes. There are concerned parties in the ministry, NGOs. We are being robbed. The money that the state allocates to the persons with disabilities must be enough, but there will be corruption schemes until we get our money to our account.

The portal as such is not functioning yet. Now they make a list of service providers.

Our blind and visually impaired people don’t understand why they create it. There’s no app or website in Kazakhstan adapted for the blind. I take a person with me when I visit a public service centre to help me get the EDS (electronic digital signature – editor’s note).

We will need to make our own choice, who will be there to help me out? Do employees of the public service centre understand technical aids for the disabled? Our rights are being violated. They made up the portal, confronted us with the fact. If it is created for us, they would involve us.

Officials think the social services portal will ensure direct interaction between recipients and suppliers of goods and services and eliminate suspicions of corruption. However, recipients are unhappy that decisions are made without their involvement.

Galia Tobataeva. Photo: time.kz

“The ministry makes decisions without us, although we are direct recipients of services. No one explains anything to us. They allocate money without our participation. Why they didn’t demonstrate the process? We also want to participate in the project,” Galia Tobataeva, 2nd category disability person and head of public association Podranki-Sharasyzdar, said.

She noted that she was trying to hold a dialogue with officials throughout 2019, but to no avail. Then Tobataeva together with a dozen of NGOs in Kazakhstan wrote a letter and appealed to the Senate, the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of People.

“They need to understand that most persons with disabilities will not be able to choose a provider due to a lack of information about them, as well as the Internet. In addition, they do not have computer skills. The list [of providers] does not include competitive providers that provide better services and consider the variety of individual needs of persons with disabilities,” Tobataeva said.

In addition, as Anatoly Migai noted, many people do not have computer skills, and the pilot project should have been launched in large cities.

“The pilot project was launched in Aktobe region, which does not have the majority of disabled persons. The meaning of the pilot phase is to test the project on many users, get feedback and improve the project. So it would be more representative to launch the pilot project in large cities such as Almaty, Nur-Sultan, Shymkent,” Migai said.

This publication was produced under IWPR project «Forging links and raising voices to combat radicalization in Central Asia»

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