Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities when Exercising the Right to Education in the Russian Federation

For the 19th Session of the UN CRPD, on the Implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, ADC “Memorial” submitted an alternative report focused on the  violations of Article 24 “Education”.

Russian laws and practice still do not conform to the obligation to create equal rights and opportunities for the self-realization of persons with disabilities that is guaranteed by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Constitution of Russian Federation. In the most cases, persons with disabilities must decide not to pursue a higher education or choose a specialization based on a very limited list of institutions that are prepared to accept them.

Russian Government Resolution No. 697 “On the Approval of a List of Specializations and Fields of Study upon Admission,” which requires applicants to undergo “mandatory preliminary medical examinations (screenings) following the procedure established when entering into a labor agreement or work contract in the corresponding position or specialization” when enrolling at educational institutions, discriminates persons with disabilities. These medical examinations take any special aspects of the applicants’ health into account. In accordance with these special aspects, the medical commission may restrict or prohibit access to education at various types of educational institutions. These restrictions are based not just on the conditions for a student’s learning and training, but also on work conditions in various specializations after graduation.

Strict requirements of “medical permission” to receive an education in secondary and higher academic institutions in the Russian Federation is clearly discriminatory in nature and prevents people with various illnesses or forms of disability from receiving secondary and higher professional education.

The bans are based on the argument that students who have received diplomas in the specializations they selected will not be able to get employed, since medical commissions have high requirements for the state of health of employees seeking employment in certain professions. However, this argument does not correspond to the principle of ensuring the right to education and the right to labor guaranteed by the Constitution and the Law on Education, that declare that a person can exercise rights and freedoms without discrimination. People have the right to decide whether or not they will work in their chosen specializations, preventing students who cannot use the skills they learn during their training in employment due to the condition of their health is a violation of their rights.

People with disabilities are also often denied access to education they choose, since the vast majority of academic institutions in Russia are still unable to provide comfortable conditions for students with special educational needs and take responsibility for the health of these students. Absence of special conditions for teaching students with disabilities at educational organizations should not be a ground for denying them admission. However, instead of conducting effective work to create comfortable learning conditions for all categories of students, educational institutions search for reasons and various feeble pretexts for not creating these conditions.