Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in education and employment and demands equal access to public facilities, health services, public buildings, and transportation. Authorities rarely enforced the law, and discrimination against persons with disabilities persisted.
The law requires new construction and transportation companies’ vehicles to be accessible to persons with disabilities. Authorities implemented the provisions of the law only to a limited extent. While many newly built or reconstructed buildings were accessible, older buildings largely remained inaccessible. According to the disability rights NGO Motivation, more than 70 percent of public institutions lacked access ramps for persons with disabilities. Persons with mobility disabilities complained regarding the lack of access to public transportation and public institutions as well as the shortage of designated parking places. Despite some improvements during the year, city authorities and construction companies often disregarded legal requirements on accessibility for persons with mobility impairments.
An experiment organized in November in Chisinau by the disability rights NGO Motivation featured several public officials who each simulated common visual, hearing, and mobility impairments attempting to navigate public spaces. The participants confirmed the difficulty of accessing public infrastructure for persons with disabilities, and the lack of knowledge among service providers on the needs of persons with visual or hearing impairments.
Most schools were poorly equipped to address the needs of children with disabilities. Some children with disabilities attended mainstream schools, while authorities placed others in segregated boarding schools, or they were home schooled. Media reported several cases against discrimination of children with disabilities by teaching staff. For example in November the mother of a 15-year-old minor with Marfan syndrome reported frequent discrimination and verbal abuse by a physics teacher at a school in Chisinau. According to the minor, the teacher used such words as “handicapped or stupid,” gave lower grades and often discriminated against the student in front of his classmates. The teacher rejected the allegations. The school administration promised to investigate the case.
Although the law provides for equal employment opportunities and prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities (except for jobs requiring specific health standards), many employers either failed to provide accommodations or avoided employing persons with disabilities.
According to NGOs providing services for persons with impaired mobility, the COVID-19 pandemic negatively affected persons with disabilities, particularly those in wheelchairs. Authorities suspended the provision of most health-care rehabilitation and social services during the public health emergency, negatively affecting the physical and psychological condition of persons with disabilities.
Investigation of degrading treatment of patients in psychoneurological institutions was deficient. In most cases prosecutors refused to investigate complaints submitted by patients, questioning the accuracy of allegations made by persons with mental disabilities. According to Promo-LEX, most prosecutors and investigators lacked technical skills to investigate acts of violence or torture in psychiatric institutions. Authorities also lacked a regulatory framework for the psychological assessment of victims of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment in psychiatric institutions.
During the year members of the Council for Prevention of Torture, as part of the NMPT, conducted preventive visits to residential institutions for persons with disabilities. The NMPT identified pervasive problems in such institutions, including a shortage of personnel in most residential institutions and of qualified medical staff in institutions hosting persons with disabilities; neglect of the special needs of persons with mental disabilities; verbal and physical abuse by personnel of persons with disabilities; involuntary confinement of patients; insufficient qualified staff at specialized institutions for children with disabilities; and lack of complaint mechanisms.
Following the suspicious death of a 34-year-old resident in the temporary placement center for persons with disabilities in Cocieri, the NMPT monitored the institution from July to September and found serious deficiencies in the treatment of its residents. While the NMPT did not find any physical violence that might have led to the death, it noted that the lack of an appropriate medical investigation and care. In another case it reported neglect being used as a form of punishment for a woman with a personality disorder due to epilepsy, which led to the worsening of the patient’s health and ultimately her death because of untreated pneumonia. The NMPT also reported pervasive neglect of patients’ health situation by the center’s staff, inadequate administration of medicine, and lack of professionalism when dealing with patients with mental disabilities. The NMPT concluded that the staff did not properly monitor and treat common illnesses of its residents, which often led to deaths.
A July visit by NMPT to the Psychiatric Hospital in Orhei which hosted 117 patients revealed a number of serious deficiencies, including hospital wards hosting up to six patients with mental disabilities conducive to a hostile environment and aggression between patients and lack of privacy; lack of a ventilation system; lack of artificial light (most wards did not have electric power, limiting patients’ activities to daylight hours); limited access to water due to deficiencies in the old water-supply pipes; inappropriate sanitary facilities (a shower with no doors for 30 patients); lack of hygiene products for female patients; lack of access ramps or accommodations for persons with impaired mobility; lack of appropriate material conditions or minimum interior design that might improve the patients’ well-being; and a lack of any nonmedical activities (at the start of the visit most patients were sleeping and not reacting to NMPT questions). Patients often were not allowed outside walks and were limited to getting “some fresh air” on a joint balcony because the hospital was not fenced and there were no personnel to accompany patients on walks. Monitors also identified cases of labor exploitation, where institutions assigned housekeeping duties to patients in lieu of hiring staff.
According to the Moldovan Institute of Human Rights, systemic deficiencies identified in psychiatric hospitals and temporary placement centers for persons with disabilities were not addressed, and restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic generated new abuses in these institutions. In particular, the institute noted the lack of qualified medical personnel; patients in psychiatric hospitals with COVID-19 being treated by psychiatrists; initial placement of new patients with existing patients without COVID-19 PCR or antigen testing; and insufficient protective and sanitary equipment or medicines for COVID-19 treatment protocols. Experts reported cases of forced medication without a legally mandated court order. Patients isolated in temporary placement centers reported the administration of psychotropic drugs without consent and mistreatment by personnel. The institute also found deficiencies in the documentation, investigation, and management of cases involving persons with mental or psychosocial impairments by police, prosecutors, judges, and health-service providers. According to the Moldovan Institute of Human Rights, the Balti Psychiatric Hospital lacked a separate ward for patients who committed crimes, leaving them to be housed and treated alongside civilly committed and voluntarily committed patients. Persons with different types of disabilities and widely different ages were sometimes lodged in the same rooms, and unjustified restrictive measures were sometimes applied. There was no separation of persons who were civilly committed as presenting a danger to themselves or others from those who voluntarily committed themselves in any of the country’s three psychiatric hospitals.
An audit on the accessibility of polling stations conducted by the Central Electoral Commission and the UN Development Program in 2019 found that only 1 percent of 612 stations assessed were fully accessible for wheelchair-bound persons. Most polling stations had no ramps or accessible toilets, narrow entrances, and dark hallways, which led many persons with disabilities to request mobile ballot boxes. According to Central Election Commission data, there were 170,000 persons with disabilities of voting age. There were no measurable improvements to accessible voting during the year.
According to the ENEMO preliminary findings on the July 11 snap parliamentary elections, while the Central Electoral Commission prepared voter education materials for promoting the involvement of persons with disabilities in the elections, provided precinct electoral bureaus with magnifying lenses, ballot frames in braille and special booths, and trained polling station staff, the measures taken were insufficient. According to ENEMO observers, on election day, 31 percent of observed polling stations were accessible; 31 percent required minor assistance, and 38 percent were inaccessible. ENEMO also noted that the extensive use of mobile ballot boxes for persons with disabilities did not contribute to more active involvement in elections. The same report noted that electoral contestants did not address the needs and problems of persons with disabilities during the electoral campaign and that only two electoral contenders (the Action and Solidarity Party and National Unity Party) published electoral programs and materials in braille.
The government continued the deinstitutionalization of persons with disabilities and provided alternative community-based services under the National Program of Deinstitutionalization of People with Intellectual and Psychosocial Disabilities from residential institutions for 2018-26. Human rights observers criticized the country’s guardianship system. A person placed under guardianship loses all standing before the law and cannot perform social and legal acts, such as marriage, voting, claiming social benefits, and consenting to or refusing medication. Most residential institutions lacked proper accommodation for persons with mobility impairments.
In Transnistria the “law” provides for protection of the rights of persons with disabilities in the areas of education, health care, and employment.
Reliable information on the treatment of persons with disabilities in Transnistria was generally unavailable, but there were reports that children with disabilities rarely attended school and lacked access to specialized resources.