Two-year long fight for the right to education: disabled person gets compensation for moral damages

Andrey Sosnov, a disabled person with vision impairment, who had been illegally denied the right to study at the internship program at the psychiatry faculty of the Saint Petersburg scientific and research psycho-neurological institute named after Bekhterev, finally received compensation for the violation of his right to education. Almost two years passed since the legal complaint on his behalf had been filed by the lawyers of ADC “Memorial” claiming compensation for moral damages. It is only recently that the institution implemented the court’s ruling.

Back in 2013, the Bekhterev institute refused to enroll Andrey Sosnov for the internship in psychiatry, although he had successfully passed all the entrance exams. Administration of the institute explained its refusal by lack of special conditions for study for people with limited abilities during the period of on-the-job training program (in the case of Sosnov lack of additional lighting had been given as the formal ground). The institute also referred to increased hazardous conditions (Class 3.1 according to Russian classification) during the practical exercises, mistakenly believing that those were same as the working conditions. The institute has also ignored the fact that people with disabilities had the right to voluntarily refuse the conditions of individual rehabilitation program, which in the case of Sosnov could mean that the working conditions were not more hazardous than that of Classes 1-2. The court’s ruling confirmed Sosnov’s right to education, referring to the relevant legal provisions (Articles 5 and 11 of the Law “On social protection of disabled persons in the Russian Federation”). The Russian Ministry of Health, too, quoted the absence of limitations for the visually impaired. It stated that the absence of contraindications to the individual rehabilitation program and successful completion of entrance exams by Sosnov gave him the right to study at the institute in accordance with the chosen program.

Back at the end of 2014 Nevsky district court of St.Petersburg considered the lawsuit filed on behalf of Sosnov by the lawyers of ADC “Memorial”, which had been supported by arguments, and ruled in favor of the plaintiff. The court overruled the institute’s refusal to recognize these arguments and ruled that refusal to join the internship program had been illegal. The plaintiff was awarded compensation for moral damages.

After receiving all the required documents following the ruling by the St. Petersburg City Court, Sosnov tried to get compensation awarded to him by court and sent all the required documents to the institute. But the lawyer of Bekhterev institute asked him to proceed through the Federal Bailiff Service or apply directly to the bank, which serviced the institute. At the same time the bank account details were not known to the applicant and the institute’s lawyer refused to provide this information. Following Sosnov’s written appeal the institute’s lawyer replied that the Bekhterev institute didn’t have a current bank account. It would seem that the institute, being a medical educational institution, which had caused discrimination and violation of the rights of a disabled person to education, at least had to take care of its own reputation and immediately pay compensation approved by the court (especially as the size of the compensation was not large, just Rb30,000). However, the institute sabotaged implementation of the court ruling and transferred the money only recently, in this peculiar way “celebrating” the International Day for the Rights of Disabled People (May 5). In fact, Sosnov and the lawyers of ADC “Memorial” had to really struggle for the rights of the disabled to education.

At the international level, Russia declares that the country “recognizes the right of persons with disabilities to education on the basis of equality of opportunity, without discrimination, at all levels and throughout life”. But in fact, as shown by the case of Andrey Sosnov, it takes years to achieve justice and to receive compensation for the violation of the rights of people with disabilities. The judgment in the case Sosnov was an important step in the fight against discrimination in education: educational institutions should create conditions for education without discrimination, not hindering people with disabilities from exercising their rights.