The General Principles of Cultural Policy up to 2020 (see chapter 1.1) state that the state shall ensure better opportunities for people with special needs to take part in culture: by taking into account their needs while building and renovating the cultural infrastructure; and by supporting initiatives and programmes for involving people with special needs (mobility related, mental, intellectual or other disabilities) at the cultural establishments.
Estonia adopted the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol on 13th December 2006.
A cooperation memorandum on principles of cooperation between the Estonian government and representatives of organisations of persons with disabilities was signed in 2012. The idea of the memorandum is to promote social integration and value the civil society of persons with disabilities. The memorandum also aims to involve such representative organisations in national decision-making processes more, not only in jurisdiction of Ministry of Social Affairs, but also in areas of other ministries, including the Ministry of Culture. The memorandum agrees that both sides promote an accessible society in all areas of policies, however, with a predominant focus on education, constructed environment, employment, transportation and social protection.
The Ministry of Social Affairs is responsible for the development of policy for persons with disabilities, but the Ministry of Culture makes sure that supported cultural organisations ensure better opportunities for people with special needs to take part in culture, both passively and actively. There have been seminars for heads of cultural organisations and the Tartu University’s Viljandi Culture Academy has special courses for cultural administrators about organising cultural events and the participation of people with special needs.
Since 2007, the Estonian sign language had been included in the Language Act and the state promotes its use and development alongside the Estonian language.
Since 1998, interpreters have been translating Estonian Television’s main news programme Aktuaalne Kaamera into sign language. Hearing impaired viewers still didn’t wanted to accept a small window with a translation in the bottom corner of the screen. Since August 2009, the Estonian National Broadcasting started broadcasting separate news in sign language on Estonian Television’s 2nd Channel, thereby improving access to information for people with hearing disabilities and increasing their social inclusion.
In 2017, all dances of the Estonian Youth Song and Dance Celebration were accompanied with a description translation and drawings of the dances were in Braille. In 2019, a Song Celebration special area was made for the hearing impaired with sign language interpretation.
Since 2014, all Estonian films supported by the state-owned Estonian Film Institute are provided with subtitles for people who are hearing impaired or visually impaired. All feature films, animated films and documentaries longer than 50 minutes must have specialised subtitles and the obligation is set out in the film support agreements.
For ministries, the partner in these activities is the NGO Estonian Chamber of Disabled People. It is the umbrella organisation for disabled people’s organisations operating in Estonia, a network of 16 regional disability chambers and 32 nationwide disability-specific unions and associations. The organisation is a partner for the state, local governments, the private sector and other non-governmental organisations on disability issues.
The state-owned company Hoolekandeteenused has organised the Disabled People Song and Dance Celebration since 2009, where all songs are translated to sign language.
The Estonian Library for the Blind services people with vision impairment or other disabilities, disorders or diseases that prevent them from reading regular writing. People can order audio books to be delivered at home and use the web-library, which holds about 4 000 audio books, newspapers and magazines in Estonian and foreign languages. The library and association for the blind also has DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System) books.