European Day of People with Disabilities

Unlike other Visegrád countries, Poland does not have a deinstitutionalisation strategy and has yet to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. This means that Art. 19 on ‘Living independently and being included in the community’ is not legally binding and that people with disabilities may not always have the opportunity to choose their place of residence. They may sometimes be left with little option but to live in a larger institution.

The lack of national (or regional) strategies slows the pace of deinstitutionalisation, but there are nonetheless changes taking place. Community-based services are gradually increasing, offering an alternative to the institutional model of care. In the region of Mazovia, a group of parents of children with intellectual disabilities, were dissatisfied with the options their children have after leaving special schools. They have now founded ‘Chata z pomyslami’ (Hut full of ideas), which operates as a small day-care centre for young adults and provides a number of workshops and training sessions. Describing her favourite activities, one user said “We prepare meals together. I like cooking and spending time around the kitchen. We buy ingredients too – I like the owner of the grocery shop nearby, he is very nice.” Another user enjoys his music workshops: “Our animator brings amazing and bizarre instruments from other continents and we play, sing and compose together.” Click here to listen to their first album released in April 2011.

However, for many children and young people with severe or multiple disabilities, institutional care remains the only real choice. Considered too difficult or vulnerable to be cared for at home or in a community, they reside in the Social Care Home ‘Na Przedwiosniu’. Almost 170 users live in this U-shaped single story building on the outskirts of Warsaw and an additional 20 come every day to participate in day-care centre activities. “I know this is far from ideal”, admits the director, “but there are simply no alternatives for these kids in the community”.

Na Przedwiosniu provides medical and social care, vocational and rehabilitation services as well as striving to empower every young person to achieve their highest possible level of independence. The care home participates in the European Voluntary System (EVS) and welcomes young volunteers (between the ages of 18-30) from all over Europe, interested in gaining insights into the institutional care model for people with disabilities.