In 2010 the Republic of Armenia ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Article 30 of which refers to cultural life, recreation, participation in entertainment and sports activities. The convention, in particular, states: «1․ States Parties recognize the right of persons with disabilities to take part on an equal basis with others in cultural life, and shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities: (a) Enjoy access to cultural materials in accessible formats; (b) Enjoy access to television programmes, films, theatre and other cultural activities, in accessible formats; (c) Enjoy access to places for cultural performances or services, such as theatres, museums, cinemas, libraries and tourism services, and, as far as possible, enjoy access to monuments and sites of national cultural importance. 2. States Parties shall take appropriate measures to enable persons with disabilities to have the opportunity to develop and utilize their creative, artistic and intellectual potential, not only for their own benefit, but also for the enrichment of society.» However, joining the convention does not mean being able and institutionally capable to implement it. As a significant part of cultural institutions were built in soviet and pre-soviet times, they were not designed for people with mobility problems or other disabilities. Many of state or public cultural organizations did not have additional resources, both financial and material to make themselves compatible with the convention, to develop new approaches and strategies. Significant changes in this field were made possible in 2021, when the new Law on Persons with Disabilities was finally adopted. This law is to provide favorable conditions for the implementation of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights and freedoms for persons with disabilities, on an equal basis with other persons, guaranteed by the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia, as well as in accordance with the universally recognized principles and norms of international law, international treaties ratified by the Republic of Armenia , ensuring their equal participation and effective social inclusion in public life. This law replaced the old law on social protection of disabled persons adopted in 1993, which did not fully comply with the norms of international law. The newly adopted law derives from the main principles of the mentioned UN Convention.
However, the situation is still far from being significantly improved. In order to integrate people with disabilities into cultural life, to meet their cultural needs, it is important to provide full physical access to cultural institutions, as well as take measures for relevant adaptations such as tangible or audible descriptions of art pieces in galleries, subtitles for films, sign language translation for theatres, etc. In the meantime, there are very few performances and concerts adapted for people with hearing, visual or other types of disabilities. Some cultural institutions still remain physically inaccessible, which prevents people with disabilities from actively participating in cultural life.
They also experience problems with expression of their creative potential. In particular, there are almost no art groups in Armenia (theatre, painting, song, dance and other art groups), adapted for people with disabilities. However, some efforts are being taken to solve the above mentioned problems. According to the Ministry of Education and Culture of the Republic of Armenia, the problem of physical accessibility and infrastructures has been already solved in the number of institutions such as the Museum-Institute of the Armenian Genocide, Museum of Komitas, M. Saryan’s House Museum, the Tchaikovsky Secondary Music Vocational School and some others. The process is going to be consistent. Within the framework of the recently launched programme of social inclusion of persons with disabilities (2018), the “Special Creative Centre for Children” (SNOC), with branches in Yerevan, Lori, Shirak and Gegharkunik provinces, have been implementing the aesthetic and handicraft training programme for 614 children with disabilities.
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