On this day, 20 years ago, “Living Upright” the counselling centre for psycho-social support for the disabled people was opened within the program of the Belgrade office of the Handicap International (HI). On February 22, 2002. people gathered around the counselling centre founded the Centre “Living Upright”, the mission of which is to create an environment where all human rights are respected.
- During 2.5 years of its work, 500 people used the services of counselling centre for psycho-social support. The counselling centre contributed to linking all the factors in Novi Sad that affect the position of persons with disabilities and organized trainings on the achievements of the international movement in this area with the aim of developing the cross-disability notion in Novi Sad.
- Since 2003, we have been working on reducing the social distance towards disabled persons by informing the public and researching, also by providing (co) editions of books, publications, films and video and audio materials and translations in the field of civil rights (/rs/category/produkcija/) and initiating services that do not exist in the community
- For the past 11.5 years, we have been continuously providing personal assistance service for disabled persons, until December 31, 2019, through projects, and starting from this year, through a direct budget line allocated for this service, which is the result of the advocating activities of the Centre and the support of the European Network for Independent Living (ENIL).
- The Accessibility Program Team (2007-14) achieved international and cross-sectoral cooperation in this field and initiated adoption of ten local accessibility action plans in the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, the Strategy and the Accessibility Action Plan of the City of Novi Sad
- Since March 2010, the Centre has been providing peer support. So far, more than 350 people, organizations and institutions have applied for it, most often in order to exercise our right to education, employment, independent living or other social rights
- From 2004 to the present, over 300 people have worked in the Centre as peer supporters, personal assistants, pedagogical assistants, assistants in decision-making, as well as in general jobs – under an employment contract, as an independent contractors, through student cooperative, and also part-time as (co) authors of workshops, works of art, educational programs, documentaries aimed at educating and informing the public about human (more precisely social) rights within the scope of the Centre’s work.
- Out of the total number of employees so far, twenty-eight of us are disabled persons.
- The Centre’s activities have been underlined by cooperation with the City of Novi Sad, UNICEF, the Novi Sad Association of Students with Disabilities, which was founded 20 years ago on the initiative of people gathered around the Centre, ENIL, the Center for Independent Living of Persons with Disabilities of Serbia, Civic Initiatives, Educational Center from Leskovac, Women’s Studies and Research, Independent Association of Journalists of Vojvodina, Novi Sad School of Journalism, Towson University, Provincial Institute for Social Protection, South Bačka administrative district…
- Advocacy work of the Centre and the services it provides have been supported by numerous institutions and organizations: UNDP, OSCE Mission to Serbia, Council of Europe, Ministry of Labor, Veterans and Social Affairs, Ministry of Economy and Tourism, National Employment Service, Environmental Protection Fund of the Republic of Serbia, 7 Provincial Secretariats, Tourist Organization of Vojvodina, Tourist Organisation of Novi Sad, EU Delegation in Syria through the TACSO project, Royal Norwegian Embassy, US Embassy, Handicap International, Reconstruction Women’s Fund, Open Society Foundation, Trace Foundation, Ecumenical Humanitarian Organization, Catalyst Foundation, EXIT Foundation, Faculty of Science and Faculty of Technical Sciences of University of Novi Sad, Faculty of Management, Educons and the Academy of Commerce, the Diocese of Bačka and the Diocese of Austria-Switzerland, the Orthodox Parish of Vienna, the Chamber of Commerce of Vojvodina and over 250 companies, service shops, surgeries, media and individuals among businessmen, artists, citizens activists, journalists, politicians, families and friends of disabled persons, persons who use and provide personal assistance and peer support services and/or participate in their development and ensuring permanent system solution. During the last year, the Mayor’s Office of the City of Novi Sad, the relevant city administration and the Centre have worked together to provide a model of financing and providing personal assistance service that allows citizens of Novi Sad to choose a licensed provider, method of providing the service and to have optimal scope of personal assistance service.
We are about to influence the amendments to the Law on Social Protection so that personal assistance service, assistance in decision-making and peer support become available to all disabled persons in accordance with Art. 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD), as well as to advocate for the amendment of family law and other laws regulating the issue of deprivation of legal capacity in accordance with Art. 12 of the Convention, the right to marry and found a family and the right to work so that all social rights defined by international treaties ratified by the states can be fully realized with the full participation of all to whom they are to apply.
On behalf of the Centre
Milica Ružičić-Novković, president