(updated 08/01/2018)

Law and Policy

  1. Is there a legal right to habilitation and rehabilitation services in your country? Please describe relevant laws

    In Estonia, there are three main systems for habilitation and rehabilitation: health system, social insurance system and via labour market services. There are general laws covering all people with disability, main criteria are degree of disability and age. No special laws for blind/visually impaired.
    Social Welfare Act
    Social Benefits for Disabled Persons Act
    Since 2016 Work ability reforms in Estonia
    Labor Market Benefits and Services Act

    and give links to further information for:

    • a. Health

      General policy described in Health Insurance Act

    • b. Education

      Support services provided by local authorities and state – Education Counselling Centres Rajaleidja in co-operation with two centers specialised on supporting the children and young with blindness /low vision. Supportive measures are described by the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research and Innovation.

    • c. Employment

      Significant changes have taken place in this area since mid 2016. Working aged people can get services via labor market system as vocational rehabilitation services.

    • d. Social Services

      Children with blindness /visual impairment under 16 years, also blind/visually impaired over 65 years and working-age blind/visually impaired with no work ability are entitled to get rehabilitation services via social insurance system.

  2. Is there a legal right to assistive technology, aids and equipment?

    Yes for blind and partially sighted people. For work – through labor market services, for children and old-age pension-aged and with no work ability via social insurance system. See welfare act and work ability reforms

  3. Do laws on rehabilitation recognise and support participation in all aspects of community life?

    yes, mainly, for both blind and partially sighted people.

  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
    • b. For adults of working age who are (i) Blind persons (ii) Partially sighted persons
    • c. For older people who are (i) Blind persons (ii) Partially sighted persons

      yes, to all, for both blind and partially sighted people.

  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

    The importance of that kind of assessment is recognized in general terms, the person may get the assessment while applying for services or allowances. The procedure is described in Social Welfare Act. However, in practice the primary assessment of rehabilitation needs may be carried out just by a case manager deciding whether the person needs the assessment by multidisciplinary team or not.

  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

      not really, only by temporary projects

    • b. For people of working age who are (i) Blind persons (ii) Partially sighted persons

      yes, first steps in the form of peer counselling

    • c. For older people who are (i) Blind persons (ii) Partially sighted persons

      yes, first steps in the form of peer counselling

  7. Are there resources for peer support services?

    Limited resources, available in case the services are recommended in the rehabilitation plan or in case a project based funding.

  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?

    The participation of those organisations has improved and the importance of it has been more recognized in recent years, however it may be just formal and the suggestions made may not get enough attention in reality. The services have been worked out by officials and specialists of the field.

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:

    Yes, there are, same for both groups.

  2. What is the full range of services in your country

    Services covered by social insurance system are provided by the special education teacher for blind/visually impaired, physiotherapist, social worker, occupational therapist, psychologist, speech therapist. Local (county) authorities can provide special transportation, individual assistant and support person services.

  3. How is eligibility determined to access habilitation and rehabilitation services for

    All persons with disabilities have the right to apply for rehabilitation services. After submitting the application, it is decided by a case manager whether or what kinds of services the person needs. The need of services provided by local government is assessed by local authorities after applying for those.

  4. Who provides habilitation and rehabilitation services (for example, dedicated blindness and low vision rehabilitation and support centres, hospitals (private and public), NGOs)?

    Above-mentioned rehabilitation services are provided by officially recognized rehabilitation centres which may be from public, private or NGO sector.

  5. Are services available locally in all parts of the country?

    The situation is better in bigger places. Rehabilitation centres specialised in the field of blindness and low vision are only in two bigger cities in Tallinn and Tartu.

  6. How are services funded (for example, free, paid for by the user, means tested)?

    If the need for services is officially determined, the services provided by the rehabilitation centres are free for certain amount. For local services (personal assistant, special transport) a certain percentage is covered by persons with disability.

  7. If services are not free have any problems of affordability been reported?

    No information

  8. Are services available for all age groups: children, adults and older people?

    Yes, they are but in reality the situation is different – better for children, worse for elderly who may be not enough active for applying for the services they may need. The need for services for partially sighted may be not recognized at the same extent as for totally blind persons.

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?

    It is described in Social Welfare Act, the information is shared mainly by the organisations of disabled persons and rehabilitation centres and by the hospitals and GPs, and by the firms or organisations selling special aids and equipment.

  2. What training is provided in the use of equipment and technology?

    The training may be provided as a part of special education service or by the organisations of blind/visually impaired, mainly project based.

  3. How is eligibility for equipment, technology and training determined?

    It is determined whether by a rehabilitation team indicating the need in one’s rehabilitation plan, or by an eye doctor or GP in written form. There will be a change and also physiotherapists and occupational therapists can determine the need since next year.

  4. How are aids, equipment and technology funded (for example, free, paid for by the user, means tested)?

    Aids and special equipment are free for working age blind/visually impaired for adapting their work place, costs are covered by labor market service providers. Special aids for personal use applied via social insurance system are not totally free. Children get those paying 10% of the cost but a special mean tested reduction is also possible to apply. Adults can get special aids with reduced prices as well and they can also apply for getting means tested additional reduction. All special aids are available only if their need is identified by GP or eye doctor or by the rehabilitation team.

  5. If services are not free have any problems of affordability been reported?

    No information. However, considering the high cost of several aids, it may be the case.

  6. Are there any limitations on the choice of equipment? What are these?

    The choice of equipment is listed in a legal document and only those aids in the list are available.

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 are special requirements for rehabilitation workers/professionals of rehabilitation centres. The general requirement is a Master degree in the field, except peer support service providers who have to pass special training courses on it and higher education is not required for them. The requirements for local service providers are described by local authorities and may differ.

  2. Please describe how rehabilitation professionals are trained. Does training emphasise meeting needs on an individual basis?

    Higher education (university) and post-graduate curricula, in addition special trainings. Yes, it emphasises individual needs.

  3. Does professional training incorporate human rights perspectives?


  4. Additional comments on professional training

    For rehabilitation professionals specialized in the field of blindness/low vision, in-service training is a part of their requirements.

Your Organisation

  1. Does your organisation represent both blind and partially sighted people in your country?

    Yes. The Estonian Federation of the Blind is an umbrella organisation with member organisations of blind/visually impaired.

  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.

    The person should have visual impairment (vision acuity less than 0.3) or disability due to vision loss or reduced vision.

  3. Is this strictly applied, or is there more flexibility in practice?

    There is more flexibility in practice.

  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.

    Yes. Services are mainly provided by social insurance system or labor market system by officially recognized rehabilitation centres or by local governments.

  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:

    Our organization has been in partnership.

    • a. policies and standards

      yes, advocating

    • b. monitoring of implementation

      yes, as a member of Estonian Council of Disabled Persons

    • c. actions to ensure that dedicated services are in place that meet the distinct needs of blind and partially sighted people.

      yes, as a partner in working groups

    • d. actual provision of services to blind and partially sighted people and the rights that people with visual impairment have to services.

      Our organisation is not a direct service provider

  6. Is there an officer or expert appointed in your organisation to work on partial sight matters? Please describe.


  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.)

    Lobbying, cooperating with rehabilitation centres, service providers, other NGOs, participating in working groups.

  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.)

    Via our organisation’s website, a journal Valguse Kaja (Sound of Light) twice a year, trainings and information days etc.

  9. How does your organisation inform others about the available habilitation and rehabilitation and support services for blind and partially sighted people?

    Website, campaigns

  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?

    Via local organisations

  11. Is your organisation involved in the Vision 2020 initiative in your country?


  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?

    Yes, it is helpful.

  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.

    Good practices from other EU countries.

  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)

      The situation has changed. It may be said that the situation is better for working-aged persons with disabilities who can get more services via labor market if they are entitled for those. For children the situation has improved as well as there are additional resources available. However, the queues for rehabilitation services for adults via social insurance system are quite long. The special services and special aids are not available for all who may need those and when they need them.

  15. Is further action needed in your country? If yes, please explain what needs to be done.

    Yes, it is never ending process as with the recent change in whole system, people are quite confused and not familiar how to apply for services and for special aids.

  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.