Serbia - Article 26

(updated 09/01/2018)

Law and Policy

  1. Is there a legal right to habilitation and rehabilitation services in your country? Please describe relevant laws and give links to further information for:
    • a. Health (i) Blind persons (ii) Partially sighted persons
      Yes, there is a right to habilitation and rehabilitation, because Serbia adopted the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with disabilities. This right is also regulated by the Law on pre-school education, primary-school education and by the Law on Social Security. In the Law on Social Security, this is called "The training for Independent Life". This applies both for blind and partially sighted persons.
    • b. Education (i) Blind persons (ii) Partially sighted persons
      Anti-discrimination and educational legislation state that the children with disabilities, which also implies blind and visually impaired children, must have available pre-school, primary, secondary and high education. The state is obliged to ensure textbooks in available formats for blind and visually impaired children. Universities are obliged to ensure suitable studying conditions and the literature in accessible formats.
    • c. Employment (i) Blind persons (ii) Partially sighted persons
      The Law on Professional Rehabilitation and Employment of Persons with Disabilities is a key legislation tool which aims to help improve the employment of these persons. The state gives incentive financial means to the employers who employ persons with disabilities, and blind and partially sighted persons among them. In the enterprises of persons with disabilities, the state participates with up to 75% minimal wages for all persons with disabilities. Employers are obliged to employ a certain percentage of workers with disability, depending on how many workers they employ, i.e. how big is the enterprise.
    • d. Social Services (i) Blind persons (ii) Partially sighted persons
      Social services are mainly personal assistance and guides for children. This is financed by local management and is not equally distributed everywhere. We also have pedagogic assistants but this is ensured in a very small number of cities and municipalities. There is also a service "Help in household", which is rather for older persons, but is used also by younger blind persons.
  2. Is there a legal right to assistive technology, aids and equipment? (i) Blind persons (ii) Partially sighted persons

    The Law on Pension and Disability Insurance gives blind and visually impaired persons the right to the technical aids for reading and writing. Currently, these are mainly DAISY players and Braille typewriters. This works very well. This right applies for employed, retired persons and the children of insurers. In the Law on Health Insurance, blind persons have the right to dark eyeglasses, watches for the blind, white canes, four-track cassette players, Braille typewriters, and screen reader software in Serbian language. This does not work as well as we want to. According to that same law, partially sighted persons have the right to a range of technical aids for partially sighted persons, such as eyeglasses etc. This also does not function very well, because the list of technical aids is not up-to-date.

  3. Do laws on rehabilitation recognise and support participation in all aspects of community life? (i) Blind persons (ii) Partially sighted persons
    Yes, but at the unsatisfactory level, because numerous physical and social barriers have not yet been removed.
  4. Are there policies on habilitation and rehabilitation services for people who are blind or partially sighted?
    • a. For children who are (i) Blind persons (ii) Partially sighted persons
      Yes, in specialized schools and pre-school institutions. In mainstream schools, this is present to a smaller extent.
    • b. For adults of working age who are (i) Blind persons (ii) Partially sighted persons
      There is professional rehabilitation for unemployed persons, conducted by the National Employment Service.
    • c. For older people who are (i) Blind persons (ii) Partially sighted persons
      Although older persons formally have the right to rehabilitation, there are no specialized institutions for this. Only organizations of the Union of the Blind of Serbia organize sporadic education programmes which are financed by the State over projects.
  5. Do policies recognise the importance of a personalised multidisciplinary assessment of each individual´s needs and circumstances? Please describe the policies and give web links to more information, for people who are: a. Blind persons b. Partially sighted persons
    This is recognized to some extent, but this depends mainly on institutions and organizations performing habilitation and rehabilitation. Public pre-school and school institutions have the habilitation and rehabilitation programmes which are fixed by laws. Specific problems of the blind and of the partially sighted are taken into account, but very seldom of those with multiple disabilities.
  6. Are there policies on developing peer support for habilitation and rehabilitation?
    • a. For children (please also include policies on family support) who are (i) Blind (ii) Partially sighted
      Depending on the number of family members and of the education structure of family members, they are included in the peer support.
    • b. For people of working age who are (i) Blind persons (ii) Partially sighted persons
      There are forms of cooperation between the newly blinded persons and those who have been rehabilitated earlier, with the aims of transfer useful knowledge and the exchange of experiences. This is particularly present in local organization of blind and partially sighted persons realizing projects in this area. Very frequently, blind persons are involved as rehabilitators.
    • c. For older people who are (i) Blind persons (ii) Partially sighted persons
      The activities for older persons are mainly organized according to projects. In principle, applies also what we said for the persons of working age.
  7. Are there resources for peer support services? Please describe these and give web links where possible for people who are (i) Blind persons (ii) Partially sighted persons
    There are resources for children in the specialized pre-school and school institutions, and less in mainstream schools. For the adult, the resources exist in blindness organizations organizing these activities according to projects.
  8. Do blind and visually impaired people and their organisations fully participate as equal partners in the development of policies and standards for habilitation and rehabilitation services? Please give details for people who are (i) Blind persons (ii) Partially sighted persons
    Local organizations and the Union of the Blind do participate in defining provisions and making policies in the area of habilitation and rehabilitation and in the implementation of those policies, but not to the extent we would like.

Access to Habilitation and Rehabilitation

Support Services

  1. Are there dedicated services for both partially sighted and blind people that meet their distinct needs? Are these habilitation and rehabilitation services focussed on supporting independent living in the community living for people who are: (i) Partially sighted persons (ii) Blind persons
    These services exist mainly in specialized pre-school and school institutions, and to a lesser extent in mainstream schools and organizations of the blind. The services in the organizations are financed mainly via projects. The services focus both on blind and partially sighted, and there is a very strong importance of independent life involved.
  2. What is the full range of services in your country, for (i) Blind persons (ii) Partially sighted persons
    Many of the skills are taught the children in the teaching process at school, and for the adult, there are courses of Braille literacy (especially for newly blinded persons), computer courses, courses of daily living skills etc. There is also psychological support for newly blinded persons.
  3. How is eligibility determined to access habilitation and rehabilitation services for (i) Blind persons (ii) Partially sighted persons
    The eligibility is determined on the basis of visual impairment, and on the basis of the expressed wishes of blind and partially sighted persons and their families, as well as on the basis of the possibilities of those who organize habilitation and rehabilitation processes, including financial opportunities.
  4. Who provides habilitation and rehabilitation services (for example, dedicated blindness and low vision rehabilitation and support centres, hospitals (private and public), NGOs)? (i) For blind persons (ii) For partially sighted persons
    The services are provided by the schools, pre-school institutions and organizations of blind and partially sighted persons.
  5. Are services available locally in all parts of the country? (i) For blind persons (ii) For partially sighted persons
    Unfortunately not. In rich areas, the habilitation and rehabilitation support is stronger, although there is a support of the Government to local managements.
  6. How are services funded (for example, free, paid for by the user, means tested)? (i) For blind persons (ii) For partially sighted persons
    They are financed in the first place by the state institutions, and to a lesser extent by donations. The users participate sometimes, if they are able to do so.
  7. If services are not free have any problems of affordability been reported? (i) For blind persons (ii) For partially sighted persons
    The services are mainly free, however, those who can, and who want the services to be faster and of a greater quality, often voluntarily cover the costs. But there were not problems of affordability reported.
  8. Are services available for all age groups: children, adults and older people? (i) For blind persons (ii) For partially sighted persons
    In principle yes, but the organizers are not always able to provide these services in the right moment.

Access to Equipment and Technologies

  1. The CRPD states that governments should make sure disabled people know about aids, technology and assistive devices and how to use them. How is this done in your country? (i) For blind persons (ii) For partially sighted persons
    Habilitation and rehabilitation service providers train blind and partially sighted persons how to use the aids, and in cases where users are partially sighted, this is also performed by health institutions. As we said, blind and partially sighted persons can receive a small number of aids free of charge, mainly over the pension and health insurance funds. Customs and VAT are not paid for the imported aids for blind and partially sighted persons. Some donors (not very often) buy and give blind persons technical aids free of charge through projects.
  2. What training is provided in the use of equipment and technology? (i) For blind persons (ii) For partially sighted persons
    As we said, the training is done in schools and organizations for the blind.
  3. How is eligibility for equipment, technology and training determined? (i) For blind persons (ii) For partially sighted persons
    The eligibility is determined on the basis of visual impairment, on the basis of educational and employment needs and on the basis of meeting daily living needs, in accordance with laws and provisions.
  4. How are aids, equipment and technology funded (for example, free, paid for by the user, means tested)? (i) For blind persons (ii) For partially sighted persons
    As we said, some of them are acquired free of charge, some can be bought without customs and VAT, and a great number of aids is paid by the users. Rehabilitation service providers ensure in the rule the aids for the training of the users.
  5. If services are not free have any problems of affordability been reported? (i) For blind persons (ii) For partially sighted persons
    The problems mainly apply for those blind and partially sighted persons with small incomes. They cannot afford the aids which are not free of charge. Some of them look for donors.
  6. Are there any limitations on the choice of equipment? What are these? (i) For blind persons (ii) For partially sighted persons
    In our country, the choice is very bad and most of the aids must be imported. The prices are rather high for the standards of blind and partially sighted in our country.

Development of the Competence of Professionals

  1. Are there training programmes for rehabilitation professionals? Please describe these (If there is accredited training, the qualifications recognised, where people are trained, to what level etc.)
    There is the Faculty for Special Education and Rehabilitation, which has its Typhlology department. To a lesser extent, the professionals are trained at training seminars.
  2. Please describe how rehabilitation professionals are trained. Does training emphasise meeting needs on an individual basis?
    The training is done mostly on the Faculty, but there are also workshops for the psychologists and similar professionals, more frequently abroad.
  3. Does professional training incorporate human rights perspectives?
    Probably yes.
  4. Additional comments on professional training
    n/a

Your Organisation

  1. Does your organisation represent both blind and partially sighted people in your country?
    Yes
  2. What are the conditions for someone with visual impairment to become a member of your organisation or use its services? Please be as specific as possible both for blind and partially sighted people.
    All those who fulfil the conditions according to the WHO standards and of the international disease classification can be our members, without limitations. This applies both for blind and partially sighted.
  3. Is this strictly applied, or is there more flexibility in practice?
    Yes, this is strictly applied, but more blind than partially sighted are interested to become our members. The fact who is blind and who is partially sighted greatly depends on the assessment of the ophthalmologists' commissions. But the Union of the Blind with its local organizations provides practically the same services for those who are the members and for those who are not.
  4. Is there another organisation that a person with visual impairment can turn to if they cannot affiliate to your organisation or if you cannot meet their needs? Please give as many details as possible.
    There are some blindness organizations at national and local level, for example, those who deal with sport and recreation, but their members are the members of the Union.
  5. How is your organisation involved in the implementation of the right to habilitation and rehabilitation support services and programmes for both blind people and people with partial sight? Please give as much detail as possible, especially regarding:
    • a. policies and standards
    • b. monitoring of implementation
    • c. actions to ensure that dedicated services are in place that meet the distinct needs of blind and partially sighted people.
    • d. actual provision of services to blind and partially sighted people and the rights that people with visual impairment have to services.
      According to the Law and to the constitutions, our organization and local organizations can deal with the rehabilitation and they do it mainly by means of project proposals, when they ensure the financial means from the state or from the donors. There are flexible habilitation and rehabilitation programmes which the organizations adapt to the conditions such as financial means, facilities etc. Some of these programmes are also accredited with the competent national institutions. Union of the Blind of Serbia has the opportunity to give proposals and remarks to the provisions regulating habilitation and rehabilitation and fixing the habilitation and rehabilitation programmes.
  6. Is there an officer or expert appointed in your organisation to work on partial sight matters? Please describe.
    No
  7. What actions is your organisation taking to implement the right to rehabilitation services with dedicated, distinct services for blind people and people who have low vision, and to ensure that these services are/will be available in practice? Please give details (examples: lobbying, cooperation with rehabilitation centres, setting up support services, cooperation with universities to develop specific training for rehabilitation experts etc.)
    As a rule, families launch the whole procedure, and the Union and its local organizations give every information and help the children and the adults to be included as soon as possible in the habilitation and rehabilitation processes. Blind children and adult persons become the members of the Union as soon as their disability is fixed. As we said, the Union provides some of these services, and of course, so do its local organizations.
  8. How does your organisation inform people with visual impairments and the general public about living with blindness and partial sight? (Examples: a website, a national helpline, information stands in hospitals, campaigns, etc.)
    The organization informs the public via magazines, website, media, professional seminars, social networks and in direct contacts with the members and their friends and families.
  9. How does your organisation inform others about the available habilitation and rehabilitation and support services for blind and partially sighted people?
    Over the direct contacts with competent institutions, with families (mainly over the local organizations), and by means of media and social networks.
  10. In what way is your organisation working with specialised ophthalmologists, optometrists, rehabilitation centres, and teachers, residential homes for older people etc. to prevent, inform and support people with visual impairment?
    Our organization organizes from time to time seminars and meetings with representatives from educational and social institutions, state bodies at national and local level and medical care professionals participating on them.
  11. Is your organisation involved in the Vision 2020 initiative in your country?
    No
  12. Are you familiar with the EBU standards for low vision services in Europe toolkit for implementing the right of partially sighted people to the services they need? How helpful is this resource document?
    Mainly, yes
  13. What, if any, type of support would you like to have to implement UNCRPD article 26 for blind and partially sighted people? Be as specific as possible.
    We would like to know more about the positive experiences from the developed countries. We also need information and professional experience from other European countries. We would like EBU to give some kind of recommendations about what steps should be done in this area.
  14. If you compare the current situation with five years ago, regarding the implementation of the right to rehabilitation services for blind people and for people with partial sight, would you say that in your country:
    • a. nothing has changed (explain )
    • b. The situation has worsened (explain why and how)
    • c. The situation has improved (explain why and how)
      c. We think that the situation has been improved, because the extent and quality of services has been enhanced. But nevertheless, we think that the situation can be much better.
  15. Is further action needed in your country? If yes, please explain what needs to be done.
    It is necessary to provide more expertize and technical support to the pupils in inclusive education, including pre-school institutions, to improve early intervention, to set up at least one rehabilitation centre for newly blinded persons.
  16. Please send any articles, material, training, standards, protocols, or links that you feel could perhaps serve your colleagues in other EBU countries aiming at high standards services for everyone with sight loss. n/a