People with disabilities in Iran face discrimination, abuse, and an inaccessible environment, Human Rights Watch and the Center for Human Rights in Iran said in a joint report released today.
The 71-page report, “‘I Am Equally Human’: Discrimination and Lack of Accessibility for People with Disabilities in Iran,” documents the everyday barriers people with disabilities meet when going to government offices, healthcare centers, and when using public transportation. People with disabilities also regularly face stigma and discrimination from government social workers, healthcare workers, and others. Many remain trapped in their homes, unable to live independently and participate in society on an equal basis with others. The Iranian authorities should immediately amend discriminatory laws and practices and create a clear plan for making public services and facilities accessible.
“People with disabilities in Iran are cut off from society because of discrimination and inaccessible public buildings and services,” said Jane Buchanan, deputy disability rights director at Human Rights Watch. “The government should immediately issue statements at the highest level that discrimination against people with disabilities has no place in Iran and make a clear, time-bound plan for ensuring accessibility of transportation, social services, and health care.”
Human Rights Watch and the Center for Human Rights in Iran conducted in-depth interviews with 58 women and men with various disabilities, as well as with disability rights advocates and specialists across Iran.
The World Health Organization and World Bank estimate that 15 percent of the world’s population has some kind of disability. For Iran, with a population of over 80 million, this means approximately 12 million people have some kind of a disability. The government has not collected disaggregated data on the number of people with disabilities, including during the 2016 national census.
Human Rights Watch and the Center for Human Rights in Iran found serious problems in the work of Iran’s State Welfare Organization, the main agency tasked with providing services to people with disabilities. People interviewed said that government social workers insulted and humiliated them and did not provide essential information about services and equipment. They said that the agency’s services and equipment provided for assistance are often of low quality, do not address people’s needs, and can only be obtained through lengthy and complex procedures.
Many of those interviewed said they had to depend on family members or close friends for help with basic needs, such as eating, getting dressed, or daily hygiene. The government has not allocated sufficient resources to develop a system of personal assistants, who can be key to the independence and equality of many people with disabilities.
Public transportation, roads, and buildings are frequently inaccessible. For example, some buses have ramps accessible for people who use wheelchairs or walkers, but bus drivers may not know how to open the ramps. In larger cities with metro systems, some stations have elevators, but they are often out of service. Some wheelchair users resort to using escalators, despite the dangers.