People with reduced mobility need more flexible social transport solutions

For a whole year, Estonian Human Rights Centre has represented a young man with reduced mobility in court against the City of Tallinn. Last week we achieved a first victory in this strategic litigation case. Taking the case to court has been possible thanks to donations of Estonian people and tireless work of our great partner, lawyer Meris Velling from Ellex Raidla law firm.

In spite of his reduced mobility, the young man we represent has three part-time jobs, he actively participates in the work of various associations and wishes to live an independent life. But rigid social transport arrangements make it extremely difficult for him to contribute to the society and be self-sufficient. The young man lives in Tallinn, but two of his jobs are located outside the city of Tallinn. This led to an absurd situation in which the he needed to use social transport outside Tallinn, but was not able to receive compensation or opportunities to use social transport for travelling to or inside other municipalities of Estonia.

Limits to self-realisation

We argued in court that as the city of Tallinn did not offer a suitable solution for the young disabled man, he was not guaranteed a decent standard of living and his right to free self-realisation was fringed upon. In a situation where the state requires for people with disabilities to be active on the job market, it also has to put in place adequate support measures. Without the support from the municipality, almost all of the young man’s income would be spent on transport.

We also pointed out that the situation the man is in, violates the right of a person to freely choose a job. The state must remove all obstacles limiting this freedom, including those which arise from a person’s disability. If necessary, positive special measures need to be taken: for example assisted or social transport, which should be arranged in a way that enables for the disabled person to travel to and from the workplace independently. Without social transport, a person with reduced mobility is in a disadvantaged position compared to others on the job market.

Individual needs assessment and cooperation are key

The court explained in its decision that a local government may not leave a person with disability in a helpless situation solely because the person is moving around in the territory of another local government.

The court also explained that the local government has to assess the real needs of the individual for social transport services, including the justified need to stay outside Tallinn’s administrative territory. The local government must ensure that a person with disability does not remain without necessary support in situations which are not reasonably possible to avoid. Local government should ensure that a person is guaranteed support services also in the territory of another local government, cooperating with each other, if needed. In our case, Tallinn did not evaluate the needs of the young man, but generally denied reimbursement of social transport outside Tallinn.

The court stated that social welfare facilities undoubtedly depend on the availability of adequate resources. At the same time, limited budget resources alone must not place a person with disability in a situation where he remains stuck between four walls and can not participate in social life on an equal level to others. In the case of budgetary constraints, the city of Tallinn should analyse the appropriateness of the existing distribution principles of their budget. The judgment has not yet entered into force, and Tallinn can submit an appeal to circuit court.

Estonian Human Rights Centre stands for everyone’s right to fulfill their dreams. Sometimes it is also necessary to go to court to create legal clarity and change the practice of the authorities. We cannot do this without our dear supporters. That is why your help is essential to move on with this and other similar lawsuits. Support human rights and equal opportunities for all.

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