CETINJE – Within the It’s about ability campaign in support of inclusion of children with disabilities, six children with visual and hearing impairments received the first copies of the child friendly version of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Braille, audio and sign language in the Balkans.
Around 200 senior government officials, Ambassadors, representatives of the media, civil and private sector, school principals, teachers, parents and children from all over the country gathered at the launching of the Convention in Braille, audio and sign language by the President of Montenegro Filip Vujanovic.
“We are proud to have Montenegro to be the first country in the Balkans to give these copies of the Convention to children. Effective communication is a necessary pre-condition for including children with disabilities in all activities that other children participate in. This is essential, because children learn what they live. If they are segregated by ability and skill for most of the day, theoretical lessons on respecting diversity not only won’t have any effect, but are senseless.” said Mr Vujanovic.
The President gave the first copies of the Convention to six children with sight and hearing impairments in Cetinje, while the remaining 500 copies in Braille and 100 copies with audio and sign language versions will be distributed all over Montenegro.
The idea of making the Convention in Braille, audio and sign language versions came from one of the child-activists of the “It’s About Ability” campaign, Badema Sirotanovic. While thanking UNICEF for keeping the promise given to her to provide Montenegro’s children with the Convention in Braille, audio and sign language, Badema explained why she asked for this. “Because, I believe that in this way, children with sight and hearing impairments all over Montenegro can better understand their rights.”
Children were the main protagonists of the event, which started with a one minute video made by Miljan Otasevic, a boy with sight impairment, with the message: “We are all different in this world, and we must find ways to communicate”. Nikola Zekic, a boy with visual impairment, was the moderator. Badema Sirotanovic, a girl with sight impairment, and Milovan Bulatovic, a boy with hearing impairment, were the spokespersons representing Montenegro’s children. Marijana Blazevic, a girl with sight impairment, played the piano at the end together with Nikola.
The event demonstrated ability and potential of children with disabilities as UNICEF Montenegro Representative Noala Skinner pointed out. “The campaign not only talks about ability. It demonstrates it. This event once again showss the strength, courage, talent and abilities of children with disabilities. Through “It’s About Ability”, children and young people with and without disabilities are being given the opportunity to participate and to share their thoughts and ideas on inclusion. This is in the spirit not only of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, but also the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.”
Head of the EU Delegation to Montenegro Ambassador Leopold Maurer invited Montenegro to continue building an inclusive society in order to become an EU member in future. “Montenegro now aims at implementing the legal and political framework for antidiscrimination in harmony with international standards, which is one of the seven conditions for starting the EU accession negotiations. We must all together strive to this goal, having in mind that all Montenegro’s children are future European citizens and that they all enjoy equal rights.”
According to Badema, providing the Convention in Braille, audio and sign language is an important step towards building an inclusive society in Montenegro, but it is necessary for similar actions to follow.“Since this Convention guarantees us the right to education, I would like to tell you that I recently finished the nine year primary school and that I would like to attend economics high school. However, there is a problem – schoolbooks for the economics high school are not available in Braille or as an audio version and so, I don’t have a chance to study what I would like to. On this occasion, I would like to please ask you to make it possible for children all over Montenegro to study what they would like and want to, and also to make this possible for us as well by providing us with books in audio version or Braille alphabet.”
The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 13 December 2006. It is the first human rights convention of the 21st century and the first legally binding instrument with comprehensive protection of the rights of persons with disabilities, including children. According to the article 21 of the Convention, people have right to get information in the form in which they can understand and use it.
First Braille, audio and sign language versions of the Convention in the Balkans are distributed within the “It’s about ability” campaign, which UNICEF, together with the Government of Montenegro, started in 2010. The campaign promotes full inclusion of children with disabilities into all aspects of life in Montenegro – families, schools and communities. More than 100 partners have joined it so far in order to support changing of attitudes and practices of the general public towards children with disabilities.