Staunton, Dec. 3 – More than 150,000 Russians with disabilities are housed in government facilities, but those institutions do far too little to help them; and the pandemic has only heightened attention to their problems and those of the disabled who live increasingly isolated lives outside their walls, Veronika Leontyeva says.
The specialist on the disabled who works in the charitable office of the Moscow Patriarchate says that reforming these state institutions is unlikely to happen – they are simply too bureaucratically entrenched – but that creating assisted living arrangements outside them can make many former inmates independent (vz.ru/opinions/2021/12/3/1132287.html).
At present, Leontyeva says, the Russian Orthodox Church and other NGOs are supporting approximately 5,000 Russians with disabilities in assisted living arrangements, ranging from group homes to assistance to individuals living on their own. This allows those with disabilities to escape loneliness, have a fuller life, and costs less than full-time confinement.
Expanding this approach, she points out, will require changing both the law, which limits how people with disabilities are defined and what their rights are and public attitudes given that many people are reluctant to have people with disabilities living among them and prefer that they be hidden away behind high walls.
But the government can’t afford that financially and society cannot afford it morally. Both thus benefit if those with disabilities can be helped to live full lives among others. Sometimes that is impossible, but more often than not, it is achievable and at a price far less than institutionalization.