City: Varna, Bulgaria
By working with and for people with disabilities, the project aims to provide equal opportunities and better life chances for them. The activities simultaneously increase the level of public awareness on issues of people with disabilities and lobby for their rights.
Photo courtesy of www.shans-bg.org
Holding Organisation: Association “Chance for People with Disabilities”, Varna, Bulgaria Status: NGO Financing: Membership dues, donations, municipal budget on project basis People involved in the project: People with disabilities, experts and volunteers, working on different projects Public Partners: Municipality of Varna Private Partners: Local NGOs and individuals Creation Date: 29th of April, 2003 Sources & Links: www.shans-bg.org; Managing body; e-mail : snc_shans à abv.bg Contact Persons: Dimcho Dimov, Manager
The project provides a range of social services for people with disabilities essential for their social integration, such as pro-employment training and qualification, individual planning, mediation services, as well as the development of skills and promotion of entrepreneurship among people with disabilities to start small and medium businesses. A stimulating learning environment is created for the development of private initiatives, entrepreneurship, starting a small business, IT skills, legal knowledge, company accounting, social legislation and social protection, tax incentives for people with disabilities, assistance with registration and starting a business, and other social services. Individual and group-based work is performed with people and their families to overcome problems and develop the potential of those with disabilities. The Centre has a capacity of 40 users.
The local context
According to expert evaluations, people with disabilities in the municipality of Varna account for about 15,000 to 18,000 people. Many of them live in social isolation, have fallen into hardship, do not have access to the labour market, are not familiar with legal documents (e.g. relating to health and social security, tax benefits for people with disabilities, conditions and documents for granting benefits, etc.) and/or are unable to communicate with people outside of the family environment. At the same time, the public is not sufficiently informed, while their families are experiencing great difficulties in trying to facilitate and improve their way of life in accordance with human rights and dignity.
The starting point
The project was initiated by those that have family or loved ones with disabilities. The aim was to create conditions for equal oportunities for their relatives in accordance with national and European standards and international instruments; to facilitate their social integration and personal realisation; to protect their human rights, human dignity and the right to an adequate and normal life.
Since its establishment in 2008, the Centre aims to provide opportunities for a decent and fulfilling life by supporting career paths, requalification and starting small and medium- sized businesses of people with disabilities. It provides users with a set of community-based social services as a municipally-delegated activity.
How does it work
The business centre has a selected team of experts in the fields of social work, psychological support, rehabilitation and supportive rehabilitation, work and art therapy, computer technology and other consultants, as well as rooms that are architecturally adapted to the needs of people with disabilities and equipped with the necessary rehabilitation equipment, computer systems and everything necessary to facilitate and implement the various activities and services.
Individual plans are elaborated reflecting the specific needs of people with disabilities; training courses are delivered, contacts with employers and institutions are established; free time is jointly organised.
In 2012, one of the main objectives of the Centre was to continue contact with employers willing to employ people with disabilities. Despite the economic and financial crisis affecting the labour market, most of the invited employers responded and hired people with disabilities, depending on their qualifications.
Meetings were held with representatives of 14 companies in the field of catering, trade and security services that were willing to hire people with disabilities. They presented potential applicants with local conditions and opportunities in the labour market and how to find work, a list of job vacancies available, and the requirements which must be met.
During the year, 68 users of the service had the opportunity to meet with an employer, of which 43 were employed under either labour or civil agreements as technical and office staff, security guards, and other suitable positions. 23 of the disadvantaged people who have used the assistance of the Centre were given the chance to work in seasonal jobs in tourism. 12 people with disabilities opted to start a small business in the field of trade and services. 92 users of the Centre's services were consulted by various experts in the fields of economics, finance, bank loans, management and marketing. A recognised level of knowledge and skills to work with computers was reached by 89 people.
For better results, the Centre combines traditional and interactive methods such as role playing, simulations, case studies, group discussions, as well as group and individual-based approaches to their work.
The activities help to increase the awareness of the rights of people with disabilities; provide knowledge for the various financial aids available from the Social Assistance Directorates; improve the self-confidence and self-esteem of the disadvantaged people; and involve them in social and cultural life through various events and festivals.
Participation and governance
People with disabilities, the team of the business centre, volunteers, local NGOs and individuals take part in all the activities. Public partner is Varna Municipality. The funding comes from donations, membership fees and municipal funding through the social programme of Varna Municipality.
Added value of the project
The major resource for the implementation of the planned activities are the team of professionals, the infrastructure, and our associates. The centre works with a wide range of representatives of organisations of people with disabilities, health centres, social enterprises and volunteers who contribute to the more efficient and high-quality execution of our targets.
We have an established network of partner organisations that, together with representatives of local authorities, are working to provide support and assistance to the disadvantaged in an active policy of social integration, rehabilitation and equal opportunities for people with disabilities in compliance with the national and international regulations.
The main difficulties for rehabilitation and social integration and equal opportunities for people with disabilities are:
- the negative attitudes formed among the general public about their abilities and potential;
- inaccessible and architecturally unsuitable environment; and
- a lack of resources for the high-quality delivery of planned services, and overcoming the obstacles in the process of work.
Future prospects for the activity include a greater promotion and raising of public awareness of the problems of people with disabilities and their potential and capabilities.
Proposals for change
We need much more support from local and national institutions to remove barriers and discrimination against people with disabilities.
Other valuable projects
In connection with the main objectives of the Association and in order to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities, small projects are implemented on an annual basis with the support of the Municipality of Varna in the fields of Prevention, Youth Activities and Social Activities and Health Development.