Yesterday’s meetings lined with concrete the status quo for several human life spans ahead.

At the death of a French king, one of those present rushed to say the phrase ” Le roi est mort; vive le roi!”, to make it clear to everyone that the kingdom is eternal. That the Territorial Expert Medical Commissions (for short, TEMC) are eternal, although to date they have survived only in our country and in Russia.

Boyko Borisov abolished the reform of the TEMCs until “consensus was reached” but it did not get clear who and what consensus should be reached. The proposals of the health ministry met such a rebuff from the nationally represented organizations of and for people with disabilities, which the same organizations did not provide for the lack of accessible environment, the access to education or to teachers with disabilities in schools, people with disabilities in shops or in urban transport. They organized protests against the changes of the labor expertise but they did not offer any proposals.  Thousands of people with TEMC documents were brought by fifty buses from all over the country to threaten the “stability of the state” and to startle the Prime Minister – who has an “easy-going” character – and he, true to himself, to cancel any changes. And this happened for the first time – it has happened so many times before. One thing is clear: these organizations do not want change, because the status quo is convenient for them, because powerless and dependent disabled people are easy for manipulation.

Why is this titanic battle for TEMCs which, by themselves, do no good to anyone? The document they issue has the character of a universal key to all the blessings – from a disability pension to a blue parking ticket, from access to a morally obsolete wheelchair for 10 years in advance to protection against dismissal, even when the employer is bankrupted. 

And what does the TEMC document contain? It only has diagnoses, percentages, and bans … A committee of mastitis doctors fills thick folders of research, epicurizes, diagnoses, and medical history to calculate – by a complex mathematical formula – the percentage of disability compared to the condition of a perfectly healthy human individual. The effort is to bring it to over 50… And what comes after that? One sorry pension, an even more miserable integration allowance, medical doctor fee exemption, free vignette, i.e. more and more petty blessings for everybody, but not the help that would make a disabled person an equal citizen of the state. And so, billions of Bulgarian levs go to public resources, and the public still doesn’t see people with disabilities on the streets, in shops, in schools or on workplaces.

Who is interested in this? Certainly, these are not people with disabilities who want to live a normal, dignified and civilized life, who want reform not only in the TEMCs, but in the overall disability policy and have been fighting for one for decades. These are not the people who want and can realize themselves despite their disability, as long as someone supports them with modern technical means, personal assistance and an accessible public environment. Of interest are TEMCs and nationally representative organizations of and for people with disabilities, who collect TEMCs and thus receive subsidies (4.6 million for 2018!). Also, of interest is the public administration, which is incompetent to manage a modern type of social policy that takes into account the individual needs of everyone and creates conditions which guarantee the inclusion and participation of all citizens. 

The decisions are not complicated, but they require political will and literacy on the part of the public authorities. Political will was demonstrated when amendments were tabled, but their character gave rise to a dramatic lack of literacy. In the civilized world, there is no examination of the condition as official or universal documents – be it of the type and degree of disability or of working capacity. It assesses the needs of each individual so that their satisfaction leads to employment, social and civic activity, independent living. 

Such suggestions, drawn from good practices in other European countries, were made by a group of disabled activists three years ago and include:

1. Issue of extended epicurizes by a medical team that reflects the persistent deficiency caused by one or the other disease;

2. Individual needs assessment provided with a human support resource that includes monthly disability support, technical assistance aids, a home adjustment resource, personal assistance and, if necessary, other means of deficit compensation (INDIVIDUAL SUPPORT);

3. Expanding the powers and functions of the Disability Agency to control and require the responsible institutions to have access to the physical environment, education, healthcare and all public systems, and to manage the resource for individual support and social inclusion (INCLUSIVE ENVIRONMENT).

The combination of these three elements creates the preconditions for the deployment of a regulatory framework that can be fully in line with the provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ratified by Bulgaria in 2012. 

There is no country in the European Union where people with disabilities are happy with their policies. But there is also no country where negligence and dishonesty in disability policies have reached Bulgarian heights – from TEMCs to false deinstitutionalization, from the lack of an accessible environment to the unacceptable combination of political representation with subsidizing “represented” organizations by vague criteria and rules.