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Poland

A. UN Convention status

A1. Ratification or conclusion of the UN Convention

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was signed on 30 March 2007. The decision concerning ratification was deferred pending an examination of the legal, social and economic consequences of the decision. The President of the Republic of Poland ratified the UNCRPD five years later on 6 September 2012. The ratification followed approval by the Polish Parliament, through Law of 15 June (Journal of Law 2012, item 882). The ratification was lodged with the UN on 25 September 2012, and in accordance with article 45 (2) UNCRPD entered into force for Poland on 25 October 2012.

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Update date: Tue, 2019-05-14

A2. Ratification or accession to the Optional Protocol

Poland has not ratified the Optional Protocol. According to an official letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of 2010, a decision concerning the signing of the Optional Protocol had not yet been taken by Poland. The letter stated that to decide the position of the Polish Cabinet, it would be essential to clarify the procedure for making complaints. In 2016 the Higher Commissioner for Human Rights issued a letter to the Prime Minister calling for the ratification of the Optional Protocol. The letter was supported by 170 civil society organisations, among them 131 that work directly in the disability field. The answer of the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Policy in an official letter on 23 March 2016 stated that there are no plans to ratify the Optional Protocol. As explained, the decision is based on the analysis of complaints procedure and reservations and interpretative declarations towards Articles 12, 23, and 25.

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Update date: Tue, 2019-05-14

A3. Declarations, Reservations and Objections

Poland made significant reservations and an interpretative declaration with regards to articles 12, 23 and 25 of the UNCRPD.

Reservation made upon signature:
"The Republic of Poland understands that Articles 23.1 (b) and 25 (a) shall not be interpreted in a way conferring an individual right to abortion or mandating state party to provide access thereto."

Reservations made upon ratification:
“The Republic of Poland understands that Article 23.1 (b) and Article 25 (a) shall not be interpreted in a way conferring an individual right to abortion or mandating state party to provide access thereto, unless that right is guaranteed by the national law.”
“Article 23.1(a) of the Convention refers to the recognition of the right of all persons with disabilities who are of marriageable age to marry and to found a family on the basis of free and full consent of the intending spouses. By virtue of Article 46 of the Convention the Republic of Poland reserves the right not to apply Article 23.1(a) of the Convention until relevant domestic legislation is amended. Until the withdrawal of the reservation a disabled person whose disability results from a mental illness or mental disability and who is of marriageable age, can not get married without the court's approval based on the statement that the health or mental condition of that person does not jeopardize the marriage, nor the health of prospective children and on condition that such a person has not been fully incapacitated. These conditions result from Article 12 § 1 of the Polish Code on Family and Guardianship (Journal of Laws of the Republic of Poland of 1964, No. 9, item 59, with subsequent amendments).”

Interpretative Declaration made upon ratification:
“The Republic of Poland declares that it will interpret Article 12 of the Convention in a way allowing the application of the incapacitation, in the circumstances and in the manner set forth in the domestic law, as a measure indicated in Article 12.4, when a person suffering from a mental illness, mental disability or other mental disorder is unable to control his or her conduct.”

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Update date: Tue, 2019-05-14

A4. Comprehensive review

The Comprehensive Review of national legislation to determine changes necessary to achieve full consistency of national law with the UN Convention was completed in May 2011. The findings were subject to interdepartmental and social consultations, and, as a result of these, the decision concerning the ratification of the Convention was made.

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Update date: Tue, 2019-05-14

A5. Focal point

The role of the focal point is assigned to the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Policy.

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Update date: Tue, 2019-05-14

A6. Coordination mechanism

The Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Policy is appointed the coordination mechanism of the UNCRPD. In October 2013 the Minister of Labour and Social Policy established (according to his Ordinance of 28 August 2013) a Team for the Implementation of the Provisions of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which is his subsidiary body and acts as a coordinating mechanism as defined in Article 33.1 of the Convention. The team consists of representatives of 16 ministries that are obliged to implement the Convention. The Team is chaired by the Government Plenipotentiary for Equal Treatment of Disabled Persons. Other experts, especially representatives of civil society organisations working in the field of disability, can be invited for the meetings of the Team.

However, according to the Commissioner of Human Rights ‘the tasks of the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Policy, as well as of the Government Plenipotentiary for Persons with Disabilities are focused on issues such as social benefits, vocational and social rehabilitation, and employment of persons with disabilities, while disregarding other areas of social, economic and political life. Therefore, there is no body designated as the mechanism coordinating all the policies relating to persons with disabilities within the government. A strategy for the implementation of the UN Convention has not been adopted either.’

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Update date: Tue, 2019-05-14

A7. Independent mechanism

The Commissioner for Human Rights is established as the independent monitoring mechanism in compliance with Article 33. 2. Pursuant to Article 33.3 of the UN Convention, an Expert Committee on Persons with Disabilities operates within the Office of the Commissioner as a consultative body.

The Commissioner’s role is performed independently of other public authorities. The powers of the Commissioner are set out in the Constitution of the Republic of Poland as well as in the Act of 15 July 1987 on the Commissioner for Human Rights.

In the structure of his office, the Ombudsman has appointed a Team for Equal Treatment and Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which is the unit for monitoring the implementation of the Convention. Additionally, a Task Group was established to coordinate the activities of the Office in this area. In the Office of the Ombudsman there are also a social Commission for Persons with Disabilities and a Commission for Deaf persons, which brings together representatives of non-governmental organizations working for the benefit of people with disabilities, as well as representatives of scientific centres involved in the protection of the rights of people with disabilities.

The task of being the independent monitoring mechanism referred to in Article 33.2, as highlighted in the CRPD reporting cycle, ‘is carried out by the Commissioner due to the position of an independent state public institution focused on human rights enforcement, but without proper legislative changes in the Act on the Commissioner for Human Rights. Moreover, the budget of the Commissioner, set out by the Parliament, is insufficient for the effective performance of all of his statutory tasks.’

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Update date: Tue, 2019-05-14

A8. Official reporting

Poland submitted its initial report drawn up in accordance with the provisions of Article 35 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities presenting the actions taken in order to implement the provisions of the Convention on 24 September 2014, i.e. at the appointed time. The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities published the List of Issues in relation to the Initial report of Poland on 25 April 2018, to which Poland replied on 31 May 2018. The Committee considered the report of Poland at its 409th and 410th meetings. The Constructive Dialogue was held in Geneva on 4 and 5 September 2018. The concluding observations were adopted at Committee 425th meeting, held on 18 September 2018.

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Update date: Tue, 2019-05-14

A9. Shadow reporting

Civil society organisations including disabled people's organisations (DPOs) have participated in the shadow reporting process. The Alternative Report on the Implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was prepared with the support of more than 50 organisations, submitted in 2015 and updated in 2018. Several other reports and answers to the list of issues prepared by civil society actors have been also submitted by the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights; the Association Institute for Independent Living; the Association of Women with Disabilities ONE.pl and Women Enabled International, Ordo Iuris Institute; Campaign Against Homophobia, Venus of Milo Association and Lambda Warsaw Association; European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA). Some of the reports focus on specific issues and intersectional discrimination e.g. the joint report prepared by the Association of Women with Disabilities ONE.pl and Women Enabled International focuses on Article 6.

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Update date: Tue, 2019-05-14

B. General legal framework

B1. Anti-discrimination legislation

The Polish Constitution contains a general prohibition against discrimination. Article 32 of the Constitution states that ‘All persons shall be equal before the law. All persons shall have the right to equal treatment by public authorities. No one shall be discriminated against in political, social or economic life for any reason whatsoever’. The Charter of Rights of Persons with Disabilities, approved by the Parliament (Sejm) 15 on 1 August 1997 (M.P. 1997, No. 50, item 475), also prohibits discrimination. The Charter acknowledges that people with disabilities have the right to an independent, active life, free from discrimination. However, the Charter was approved in the form of a resolution, so it is not binding, but rather represents the will of the Parliament. Legislation adopted after 1 August 1997 cannot contradict the terms of the Charter. The Charter also imposes an obligation on the Polish Government to provide information concerning implementation of the rights of persons with disabilities. Specific laws counteracting discrimination are, however, mainly limited to the employment field. Although, on 1 January 2011 the Act of 3 December 2010 on the Implementation of Certain Provisions of the European Union in the Field of Equal Treatment (Journal of Laws 2010, No. 254, item 1700; hereafter Act on Equal Treatment) entered into force. This Law is not exhaustive and does not cover discrimination based on sexual orientation, disability, religion or age in the fields of education, health care, social protection and housing. The Act on Equal Treatment (2010) designated the existing Ombudsperson Office (Commissioner for Civil Rights Protection) as an equality body. Moreover, pursuant to the Act on Social and Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment of Persons with Disabilities, the employer is obliged to prepare adaptation of the workplace to the needs of a person with disability. Failure to make necessary reasonable accommodation is an infringement of the principle of equal treatment in employment according to the Labour Code.

The Commissioner for Human Rights in his report to the CRPD Committee ("Information of the Commissioner for Human Rights on measures taken by the Republic of Poland in 2015-2017 in order to implement the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities") highlights the limitations in the protection against discrimination:

  1. " The Act on equal treatment fails to prohibit discrimination of persons with disabilities in all areas of social life, despite the fact that such a prohibition applies to other groups at risk of discrimination (e.g. ethnic minorities). As a result, a person with a disability who is a victim of unequal treatment does not enjoy the same level of protection against discrimination as other people with respect to social security, access to services, including housing services, to goods, acquired rights, energy sources, health care and education, including university education."
  2. "The Commissioner is also critical of the scope of compensation that is possible, due to courts interpretation, under the Act on Equal Treatment. Such compensation covers solely material damages and is not due for non-material damages. Yet, in most cases concerning violation of the equal treatment principle on the grounds of disability, protection is sought, primarily, not of property rights, but rather of personal dignity. "
  3. "The lack of effectiveness of the legal remedies against discrimination under the Act on equal treatment is confirmed also by the very low number of court cases in which compensation has been adjudicated. There have been only few of such cases since the Act’s entry into force in 2011. This does not reflect the real scale of discrimination in Poland, including discrimination on the grounds of disability."
  4. "The Commissioner is concerned about the limited awareness of the rights of victims of discrimination. According to his survey, 12% of individuals who experienced discrimination over the last 12 months are persons with disabilities. Only 8% of those affected by discrimination reported this fact to a public institution. Only one third of the respondents indicated that discrimination in employment is prohibited by law. As many as 47% of the respondents failed to indicate even one institution or organisation providing support to discriminated victims".

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Update date: Tue, 2019-05-14

B2. Recognition of legal capacity

Despite ratifying the UNCRPD in Poland the instrument of incapacitation is provided by the law, as Poland has made the following interpretative declaration upon the ratification:
“The Republic of Poland declares that it will interpret Article 12 of the Convention in a way allowing the application of the incapacitation, in the circumstances and in the manner set forth in the domestic law, as a measure indicated in Article 12.4, when a person suffering from a mental illness, mental disability or other mental disorder is unable to control his or her conduct.”
Domestic Law, namely the Act of 23 April 1964 - Civil Code (Journal of Laws 1964, No. 16, item 93, with further amendments) distinguishes between legal capacity and the capacity to undertake legal actions. ‘Legal capacity’ (‘zdolność prawna’, in Polish) is the capacity to be a subject of rights and obligations in the area of civil law. The ‘capacity to undertake legal actions’ (‘zdolność do czynności prawnych’, in Polish) means that a person has the capacity to acquire civil law rights and obligations by personal actions. In the official Polish translation of the CRPD, Article 12 is worded in such a way that it relates only to equality in terms of passive legal capacity of persons with disabilities, that is the capacity to have the rights and legal obligations under the law, yet without the capacity to perform acts in law. Thus, the instrument of incapacitation does not comply with Article 12, and there is no legislation that would introduce supported decision-making.

In general, persons with disabilities can be placed under guardianship by the court pursuant to the Civil Code (1964) that recognises plenary and partial guardianship. A person may be placed under plenary guardianship because of mental health problems, mental deficiency or other ‘mental disorders’, particularly if due to alcoholism and drug addiction they cannot ‘control their behaviour’. If the circumstances do not warrant plenary guardianship, but a person needs assistance to manage their affairs, partial guardianship may be declared. Persons placed under plenary guardianship do not have the right to conclude any legal acts and any legal actions they take are invalid. Guardians for such persons are appointed by the court. The legal capacity of a person under 'partial' guardianship is partially restricted and for such a person a 'curator' is appointed. The main role of the curator is to support or assist the person who has partially restricted legal capacity in his/her affairs. The agreement of the curator is essential for the validity of most of the legal acts made by the person.

According to the data provided by the Commissioner for Human Rights, the number of applications for incapacitation is increasing. In 2016, 13,979 applications for incapacitation (one thousand more than in 2012 and 2013) were filed with courts, and in the same year, full incapacitation was adjudicated in 8,641 cases, and partial incapacitation in 829 cases.

In the Concluding Observations the CRPD Committee calls upon the State party "to withdraw its interpretative declaration on Article 12 of the Convention and, recalling its General Comment No. 1 (2014) on equal recognition before the law, to repeal all discriminatory provisions under the Civil Code and other legal acts allowing for the deprivation of legal capacity of persons with disabilities, given that legal capacity includes the capacity to be both a holder of rights and having the capacity to perform legal acts, as it is defined in legislation. It also recommends that the State party establishes a procedure aimed at restoring the full legal capacity of all persons with disabilities, and develop supported decision-making mechanisms that respect their autonomy, will and preferences."

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Update date: Tue, 2019-05-14

B3. Accessibility of voting and elections

The Constitution of the Republic of Poland (1997) ensures that every Polish citizen who has attained 18 years of age has the right to participate in a referendum and the right to vote. However, under Article 62 only persons with full legal capacity can exercise these rights. Persons placed under full or partial guardianship are excluded from political participation.

With regards to accessibility of political participation, several important provisions were implemented into the electoral laws improving the accessibility of voting and elections, including voting through a plenipotentiary, correspondence voting and voting using Braille overlay sheets with ballots. Old regulations, such as the Act of 12 April 2001 on Elections to the Polish Parliament, in practice deprived people with disabilities who were not able to leave their homes and turn up personally at the polling station of their right to vote because they had to personally participate in elections. The Election Code, which entered into force on 1 August 2011, replaced several acts governing electoral law in Poland. It contains the following regulations regarding the accessibility of voting and elections for persons with disabilities: 1) the accommodation designed as seats of electoral bodies should be easily accessible to persons with disabilities; 2) the head of a commune or mayor shall ensure access to polling stations adapted to the needs of voters with disabilities; 3) in every commune there should be at least half of the premises adapted to the needs of persons with disabilities (location has to be communicated 30 days before the elections); 4) polling wards may be established in hospitals and 'social welfare homes' that have at least fifteen resident voters; 5) voters with disabilities may be assisted in voting by another person who is not a member of a ward electoral commission or a poll observer authorized by the candidates; 6) persons with disabilities holding a disability certificate for moderate or significant degree have the right to vote through a plenipotentiary or via the post; 7) voters with disabilities may vote in ballots using a Braille overlay sheet.

Correspondence voting and voting through a plenipotentiary since 2018 are reserved only for persons with moderate and severe disability certificate (the latter also for persons over 75 years old), no other persons are entitled that might restrict the accessibility of voting for disabled persons who do not have these certificates. According to the research conducted by CBOS majority of Poles have a positive attitude towards alternative ways of voting including via the internet, correspondence, and plenipotentiary. The same research reveals that 77% of disabled respondents declared voting by going to the polling stations, the alternative ways are important and needed yet used only when highly necessary. 13% of disabled respondents was supported by neighbours or family to attend voting, only 6% used transportation to the polling station organized by the local authorities (the demand is much higher, yet authorities are not obliged to provide it), 3% used correspondence voting and 3% voting through a plenipotentiary. It has to be highlighted that 20% of disabled persons declared that it happened that they resigned from voting due to issues connected with disability. In this context, it is important to note that according to the research published in 2019 by the Commissioner for Human Rights 78% of controlled election premises does not meet the accessibility criteria.

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Update date: Tue, 2019-05-14

B4. Official recognition of sign language

In 2011, Poland adopted a law on Sign Language – the Act on Sign Language and other means of communication (Journal of Law 2011, No. 209, item 1243) as of 19 August 2011. From 1 April 2012, all public authorities are obliged to provide Sign Language interpreters for hearing-impaired people (this need has to be registered at least three days in advance). According to the law, from October 2011 a person with hearing impairment is allowed to take advantage of 'a helper' (chosen by him/herself) when contacting the public authorities. Yet, research conducted by the Supreme Audit Office confirmed that the level of implementation of the regulation is very low. As a result, Deaf persons encounter many barriers in contact with public institutions. Recently, the amendment of the Sign Language Act is being proceeded. The draft amendment imposes an obligation to provide accessible ways of communication on the Medical Rescue (hospital emergency departments and medical rescue teams), the Police and the State Border Guard units.

Pursuant to Article 19 of the Act on Sign Language of 19 August 2011 and other means of communication (Journal of Laws of 2017, item 1824) the Polish Sign Language Council was established. The Council is an advisory body to the Minister in charge of social security, that constitutes a platform between the representatives of government administration bodies, local government, and non-governmental organisations for cooperation for the benefit of Deaf and hard of hearing persons. The scope of activity of the Council includes:

  • establishing recommendations for the correct use of sign language;
  • dissemination and promotion of knowledge on sign language
  • drawing up opinions on the functioning of provisions of the Act, issuing opinions on draft government documents in the scope of functioning of Deaf persons;
  • indicating proposals for solutions affecting the Deaf persons, including those related to the use of PJM, SJM and SKOGN.

For instance, on 28 March 2019 the Polish Sign Language Council during the meeting in the Ministry of the Family adopted a resolution on the creation of a list of certified sign language interpreters that aims at providing better quality translations.

Moreover, the Commissioner for Human Rights has established the Deaf group in 2013 that in 2017 was transformed into the Deaf Experts' Commission. The aim of the Commission is to gather information concerning specific problems and needs of the Deaf and to identify the reasons for the violation of their civil rights. The team has prepared several publications including "Situation of Deaf persons in Poland", "Education of Deaf", "CODA - otherness not recognized" and "System of support for the family of a Deaf child in Poland". All studies were prepared in Polish and then translated into Polish Sign Language (PJM).

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Update date: Tue, 2019-05-14

B5. National disability strategy and action plan

There are plans to introduce the National Strategy for Disabled People 2018-2030. However, as of April 2019, the document is not yet publicly available.

The work on preparing the National Strategy for Disabled People 2018-2030 initiated in autumn 2016. On 3 December 2018 the Commissioner for Human Rights issued a letter to the Government Plenipotentiary for Disabled People due to the Concluding Observations issued by the UNCRPD Committee that recommended the creation of the comprehensive Disability Strategy.
"The Committee recommends that the State party develop, with the wide participation of organisations of persons with disabilities, a strategy and action plan for the implementation of obligations under the Convention, ensuring a comprehensive paradigm shift from a charity model to the human-rights model of disability throughout its national, regional, local and sectoral policies, regarding persons with disabilities as human rights holders".
The Commissioner for Human Rights is concerned that the Strategy - despite ongoing works - was not subjected to social consultations.

According to the official answer of the Government Plenipotentiary of the Disabled People of 18 January 2019, the strategy is being developed and activities so far have included: analysis of postulates of various groups of people with disabilities, inter-ministerial consultation meetings or consultations with the National Consultative Council for Persons with Disabilities and the Polish Federation of the Deaf. The Government Plenipotentiary has declared that the draft Strategy will be subject to extensive inter-ministerial and social consultations starting February/March 2019.

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Update date: Tue, 2019-05-14

C. Accessibility

C1. Transport accessibility

The Charter of Rights of Persons with Disabilities (1997) acknowledges that people with disabilities have the right to live in an environment free of functional barriers, including to the use of public transport. The Charter, however, was approved in the form of a resolution, so it is not binding, but rather represents the will of the Parliament. Legislation adopted after 1 August 1997 cannot contradict the terms of the Charter. The Charter also imposes an obligation on the Polish Government to provide information concerning implementation of the rights of persons with disabilities. According to the Act of 15 November 1984 (Transportation Law), transport providers are obliged to ensure passengers’ safety and comfort and other due services, as well as to take measures that will make the use of transportation easier, including for people with limited mobility and people with disabilities. The Act explicitly addresses the accessibility of vehicles, check-in desks, platforms and stops. Moreover, according to the regulation of the Minister of Transport and Building of 13 January 2006 timetables should specify the modes of transport that are accessible to people with disabilities and information related to concessionary fares. Issued in 2016 the Regulation of the Minister of Infrastructure and Construction amending the Regulation on the technical conditions of vehicles and the scope of their necessary equipment (Journal of Laws No. 858, item 858) sets out the requirements for city buses with regard to technical devices facilitating access for passengers with reduced mobility. Improving transport accessibility for people with disabilities is one of the goals of the Polish Transport Development Strategy that runs until 2020, as well as Responsible Development Strategy.

According to the Central Statistical Office data, the share of adjusted buses in the total amount of buses increased from 84% in 2016 to 84.4% in 2017.
The total number of trams adjusted to carrying persons with disabilities increased by 3.6% (its share in the total number of trams increased from 29.7% in 2016 to 32.1% in 2017). There are 400 accessible railway stations, however, the passengers need to inform the company 48 before their travel in case of a need of support. Moreover, the Supreme Audit Office control report revealed that ‘poviat’ cities (second-level units of local government and administration in Poland) do not guarantee equal transport opportunities for persons with disabilities: only three out of ten cities offered 100% of vehicles being accessible, in other cities it was between 47-97%, yet accessible tram transport, for instance, in Bydgoszcz, was offered only in 4% of routes. The report also addresses the insufficiency of accessible information as well as information on the accessibility of transport.

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Update date: Tue, 2019-05-14

C2. Built environment accessibility

The 1997 Charter of Rights of Persons with Disabilities acknowledges that people with disabilities have the right to live in an environment free of functional barriers, including access to public offices, polling stations and public utilities. The Charter was approved in the form of a resolution, so it is not binding, but represents the will of the Parliament. Legislation adopted after 1 August 1997 cannot contradict the terms of the Charter. The Charter imposes an obligation on the Polish Government to provide information concerning the implementation of the rights of persons with disabilities. The 1994 Law on Construction introduced from 1 January 1995 the obligation to consider the needs of persons with disabilities in new construction projects and when modernising existing buildings, other public buildings and multi-family dwellings. All such buildings should be accessible for people with disabilities, including people using wheelchairs. More detailed requirements are set out in the Ministry of Infrastructure Regulation of 12 April 2002 on technical standards. In accordance with the Regulation of 25 June 2002 of the Minister of Labour and Social Policy on determining county tasks that can be financed from the resources of the State Fund for Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons, resources are to be used for the elimination of architectural barriers in and outside the home to help people with disabilities perform daily activities. Architectural barrier removal may be granted to a person with mobility difficulties. Reimbursement is made by the county government (the person concerned has to submit a written request to the County Family Assistive Centre, CFAC). Up to 80% of the costs may be reimbursed but no more than fifteen times the average monthly remuneration. Every CFAC provides a detailed catalogue of equipment, materials, and works that can be reimbursed. In 2015 the Ministry of Infrastructure and Development published on technical conditions to be met by buildings and their location specifying accessibility criteria. Moreover, the Standards for designing buildings were published that embrace the concept of ‘universal design’. In 2018, the amended draft bill on accessibility was elaborated, which is currently under public consultations.

Importantly, in 2018 a new programme ‘Accessibility Plus’ (Dostępność Plus) was announced and is entered into the phase of implementation. According to its targets, approximately 1,000 public facilities will be made accessible to disabled persons, including schools (100), nurseries (100), universities (100), and healthcare centres. The programme also aims at ensuring digital accessibility of public institutions’ webpages and modernisation of public transportation.

Yet, according to the research conducted by the Supreme Audit Office, none of controlled 94 public buildings was 100% barrier-free, and 34% of controlled documents did not mention accessibility for disabled persons. Moreover, 63% of controlled municipalities (or ‘gminas’, in Polish) did not ensure social consultations on accessibility.

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Update date: Tue, 2019-05-14

C3. ICT and Web accessibility

According to the Act of 6 September 2001 on access to public information, every person shall have the right to access public information. However, persons with disabilities are not specifically mentioned in this legislation. In 2010, on the basis of the amendments to the Act of 17 February 2005 on the application of information technology in public sector, minimum requirements for ICT systems have been extended, taking into consideration access to information for persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities have been also included in the 125 projects undertaken in the framework of the Operational Programme Innovative Economy 2007-2013– 8.3 Counteracting Digital Exclusion – e-Inclusion. The Marrakesh Treaty was signed by Poland in 2014.

In 2018 the Act on Accessibility was drafted that aims at reaching accessibility of government and self-government administration websites by 2020. The bill introduces common standards, alternative access to information requirement, priorities of accessibility (information that has legal consequences must be accessible), a feedback mechanism (a citizen can inform on the inaccessibility of document) as well as financial penalties for the lack of accessibility. The first step of its implementation is the declaration of accessibility. The act was drafted to comply with the EU web accessibility directive, and underwent social consultations, during which the organisations participating in the annual Disabled Persons Congress issued their comments highlighting that the act focuses mostly on certain types of disabilities, not addressing sufficiently persons with intellectual disabilities. The authors pointed out that the Act is lacking clear definitions of ‘easy read’ and ‘AAC’, as well as a quota of disabled men and women in the Accessibility Council. The increased efforts on web accessibility are crucial, as according to the research conducted in 2013 by the Commissioner for Human Rights, as much as 70% of public institutions web pages was difficult to access.

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Update date: Tue, 2019-05-14

D. Independent living

D1. Choice of living arrangements

In theory, persons with disabilities have the same opportunity to choose where to live as other Polish citizens, unless they are deprived or restricted of legal capacity. The Polish Constitution ensures freedom of choice of place of residence. Article 52 states that “Freedom of movement, as well as the choice of place of residence and sojourn within the territory of the Republic of Poland, shall be ensured to everyone”. This freedom, however, may be subject to limitations. Article 75 of the Polish Constitution states that “Public authorities shall pursue policies conducive to satisfying the housing needs of citizens, in particular combatting homelessness, promoting the development of low-income housing and supporting activities aimed at acquisition of a home by each citizen”. Persons with mental health problems may, however, be placed involuntarily in a social welfare home (‘dom pomocy społecznej - DPS’, in Polish, or 'institution' hereafter). According to the provisions of the Protection of Mental Health Act of 19 August 1994 (Journal of Law 2011, No. 231, item 1375, with further amendments), a person with mental health disorders or intellectual disabilities who needs permanent care and nursing but does not need treatment in a psychiatric hospital may be placed involuntary in this type of institution when a lack of care may endanger his or her life. The case is submitted to the guardianship court by a social welfare unit or by a hospital director (in the case of a psychiatric hospital patient who no longer requires treatment in a hospital) and the decision is then taken by the guardianship court. The Social Assistance Act of 12 March 2004 (Journal of Law 2004, No. 64 Item 593, with further amendments) also obliges the social welfare authorities to notify the relevant court or public prosecutor if a person who is considered to require support does not agree to be placed in a social welfare home. The regulation of the Minister of Health of 21 December 2018 on the application of direct coercion to a person with mental disorders sets standards of issuing and reporting. In 2018, another positive development regarding the choice of living arrangements occurred. The amendment to the Act on Mental Health Protection strengthened the rights of persons who are placed in institutions without their consent, by ensuring the protection of those persons procedural rights (especially while incapacitated). Any person placed in an institution, including a legally incapacitated person, may apply to a guardianship court for changing its ruling on the stay. Moreover, a person who does not consent to stay any longer in such an institution any longer may apply to the guardianship court for the annulment of its ruling. Importantly, the amended Act introduced the obligation for the court to hold a hearing of the legally incapacitated person to be placed in a psychiatric hospital or an institution (DPS).

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Update date: Tue, 2019-05-14

D2. De-institutionalisation

There is no national programme concerning de-institutionalisation in Poland. However, Poland is among 12 EU Member States for whom the European Commission identified a need for measures to shift from institutional to community-based care. The Partnership Agreement includes sections on support for community-based services, yet acknowledges that institutional care dominates service provision. It mentions protected, assisted and council housing as tools for community-based support, however also states it is justified to continue support for institutional forms of care in certain cases (e.g. children and adults with a high degree of mental disability). The CRPD Committee referred to the situation in Poland with regards to de-institutionalisation in terms of critical stagnation. Nevertheless, some action is undertaken with the support of the ESIF funds. The main area of testing of created models of deinstitutionalization is mental health care. To address the insufficiency of efforts undertaken, in November 2017, together with 54 DPOs the Ombudsman sent an Appeal to the Prime Minister regarding de-institutionalisation of the support system for persons with disabilities and elderly persons

The care provided in institutions ('dom pomocy społecznej' - DPS, in Polish) is the dominant model of state-funded care, and the de-facto main form of sustained, guaranteed daily support to persons with disabilities, when no support by the family is provided. According to the Social Assistance Act of 12 March 2004 (Journal of Laws 2004, No. 64, item 593, as amended), these provide services for persons who need 24 hour care because of age, illness or disability. By the end of 2010 all institutions (DPS) in Poland were obliged to achieve new standards set in the Regulation of the Ministry of Social Policy of 19 October 2005 on social welfare homes (Journal of Laws 2005, No. 217, item 1837). According to the new standards, newly established homes cannot have more than 100 residents, the number of residents living in one room cannot exceed four persons (the area of the room has to be at least six square meters). Every home should ensure certain living, care and assistance services. In 1997, sheltered housing solution was introduced into the social welfare system by the amendment to the previous Social Assistance Act (1990), however, access to this type of support is still very limited in Poland. According to the Social Assistance Act (2004), a residence in a sheltered apartment can be granted to a person who because of difficult life situation, age, disability or illness needs support to lead his/her daily life but does not need 24-hour services in an institution. According to the Law of 26 April 2018, all the protected houses shall be accessible and the minimal space per person is 12 square meters. The number of persons living in protected housing cannot exceed 12 persons by 31 December 2019; ten persons by 31 December 2021; and seven persons after 2021. The legislation, though, in part does not comply with the General Comment on Article 19 of the CRPD, as it restricts the usage of protected housing for persons that need 24- hour support as well as poses no limit on the number of protected houses in a building.

According to the data provided by the Ombudsman, 83,967 persons were living in 2016 in 817 institutional settings. An average number of residents per institution amounts to approximately 103 persons. The OECD data show that in 2016 the number of long-term care recipients (all ages, without hospitals) reached 102,721 and there were 72,460 beds in residential long-term care facilities. In 2017 there were 677 protected houses, offering 2,863 places (yet they were not dedicated solely for disabled persons).

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Update date: Tue, 2019-05-14

D3. Quality of social services

In general, Poland lacks a comprehensive and cohesive system of monitoring the quality and effectiveness of disability services.

Yet, it is important to note that in April and May 2018 disabled persons and their parents occupied the Parliament for 40 days demanding higher disability benefits and voicing critiques of the available support system. Also, the alternative report on the implementation of the CRPD approaches the quality of social services critically. Civil society organisations highlight that lack of power and choice in most of the benefits hinders and the effectiveness and comprehensiveness of the support provided and causes lack of accountability. The non-monetary benefits funding mechanisms are structured unfavorably that results in addressing fragmentarily the needs of persons with disabilities. In consequence, there are no services for many groups or access to them is extremely limited. It results in families bearing the costs for care. They argue: "Current income criteria used in access to support to independent living transgress beyond the constitutional principle of subsidiarity – income thresholds are set too low. This entails many negative consequences. In particular, active persons relinquish their participation in the labour market, because if they maintain work it would require them to pay relatively high fees for the provision of support services".

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Update date: Tue, 2019-05-14

D4. Provision of assistive devices at home

Several provisions exist in Poland as regards assistive equipment and adaptations. The Charter of Rights for Persons with Disabilities (M.P. 1997, No. 50, item 475), approved by the Parliament on 1 August 1997, calls for actions to ensure access to goods and services that enable disabled people to fully participate in social life as well as to medical treatment and rehabilitation including provision of orthopaedic and assistive devices and rehabilitation equipment. In accordance with the Act of 27 August 2004 on Health Care Services (Journal of Laws 2004, No. 210, item 2135, with further amendments), people with disabilities can apply to the National Health Fund for orthopaedic and assistive medical devices such as orthopaedic prosthetics, shoes, callipers, walking sticks and crutches, wheelchairs, lenses, hearing aids, etc. To apply for these services, a written order from an authorised practitioner is needed. Reimbursement for a particular article or equipment is granted for a certain period (for instance, 2, 3 or 5 years) and in relation to a particular impairment. The Minister of Health determines the maximum reimbursement as well as providing a detailed catalogue of orthopaedic articles and means of assistance (Regulation on orthopaedic articles and assistive equipments, Journal of Laws 2017, item 1061). The National Health Fund reimburses expenses but only up to a certain amount. Additionally, a person with disabilities who is granted reimbursement for orthopaedic articles and assistive means from the National Health Fund can apply to County Family Assistance Centres to cover the remaining sum. The applicant has to hold a disability certificate and meet income criteria. While payment is made by the County Family Assistive Centres, funding for this comes from the resources of the State Fund for Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons on the basis of the Act of 27 August 1997 on Rehabilitation (Journal of Laws 2011, No. 127, item 721). With regards to expenses for rehabilitation equipment, orthopaedic articles and assistive means granted by the County Family Assistance Centres, in 2010 the county governments partially financed such services for 140,712 persons with disabilities and spent PLN 92 million on this task (30% less than in 2009) and the average reimbursement per person was PLN 662 (about EUR 165). In 2016, 176,570 disabled persons, including 16,654 children and youth, received co-financing from the PFRON funds (which are at the disposal of 'powiat' self-governments) in the amount of PLN 139,745,065.

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Update date: Tue, 2019-05-14

D5. Availability of personal assistance schemes

There are no coherent and comprehensive cross-country measures with regards to personal assistance. It is only offered in some localities on a project base. Although in recent years, a new profession has been formed that is an assistant to a person with disabilities to support and advise in the rehabilitation process, as there is no such service in the Polish system. The services that do exist are mostly offered by non-governmental organisations and local governments and are organised in various ways. All of these services use different application procedures, eligibility criteria, and payment conditions.

The main forms of support provided by the public authorities to people with disabilities who want to live in their own homes are care and specialist care services, yet by no means they can be treated as Personal Assistants, as a person with disability has no right to choose who nor to what extent assist him/her. These services are forms of social benefits provided to individuals who, because of age, illness or other reasons, need assistance. According to the Social Assistance Act of 12 March 2004, care services and specialist care services are granted on the basis of an administrative decision and are free of charge only for those individuals who meet the income criteria. The social worker, in granting eligibility to both kinds of care services, defines their scope and place of provision. Care services may include help with fulfilling daily needs (tidying up, washing, shopping, cooking), hygiene, nursing care (according to the doctor's advice), and, if possible, contacts with the environment. Specialist care services can be adjusted to particular needs resulting from specific diseases or disabilities and require specific professional skills to provide them. Specialist care services may, among other services, consist of teaching and developing the skills necessary to live independently; interventions and help in family life; help in taking care of official errands; help in managing household finances; nursing support; and assistance with housing matters. The Act on Rehabilitation (1997) includes regulations concerning assistance at work for employees with disabilities, whereby an employer can be reimbursed from the State Fund for Rehabilitation for the costs of providing support for a disabled employee at a work place, yet it is not equal to personal assistance. The number of hours that are used solely to help an employee with disabilities cannot exceed 20% of the monthly number of hours that employee works.

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Update date: Tue, 2019-05-14

D6. Income maintenance

The Polish Constitution guarantees the right to social security for people with disabilities. Article 69 states that ‘Public authorities shall provide, in accordance with the statute, aid to disabled persons to ensure their subsistence, adaptation to work and social communication.’ Financial support for persons with disabilities in Poland is available mainly through social insurance, family benefits and social assistance systems. The benefits are granted based on diverse existing disability assessment systems and most of the benefits available for persons with disabilities are based on the income threshold. Both have many consequences, including the general perception of the system being hard to navigate. In general, the Social Insurance System provides incapacity pensions based on the assessment of total or partial incapacity of work and inability to independent existence (the pejorative terminology of the assessment system does not comply with the CRPD). Social assistance is meant to support those citizens and families, who, for objective reasons, are not able to fulfil their primary needs in life and enable them to live in decent conditions; disability and prolonged illness are among the reasons for granting social assistance. Social assistance consists of various categories of cash benefits and most of these services are means-tested. According to the Act of 12 March 2004 on Social Assistance, there are three basic types of cash benefits from this system: a permanent allowance, a periodical allowance and a purpose allowance (together with special purpose allowance). A person is eligible to receive a permanent allowance if she/he meets the income criteria and is totally incapable of working due to age or disability. Periodical allowance may be granted to persons and families without sufficient income (income lower than the threshold level of income specified in the social assistance regulations, particularly due to prolonged illness, disability, unemployment, and possibility to maintain or acquire the rights to benefits on other social security systems). People with disabilities can also benefit from the family benefit system that is available to all families with children receiving a low income. According to the Act of 28 November 2003 on Family Benefits, family benefits in Poland are funded by the state budget and the eligibility depends on the concerned family’s actual financial situation but the award of them is not dependent on whether the eligible person has been employed and insured. The income criteria for a family with a disabled child are higher than for other families and the amount of family allowance paid depends on the child’s age. This also applies to the 'Family 500+ Programme' - a monthly child raise benefit of PLN 500 for every second and subsequent child. A number of supplements may be granted in addition to the family allowance. One is the supplement for education and rehabilitation of a child with disabilities. This is granted for a child with disabilities up to the age of 16 and for a person with a moderate or significant disability between the age of 16 and 24. It covers increased spending on rehabilitation and education of the child. Additionally, the family benefits system includes two non means-tested benefits of great importance for people with disabilities and their families: nursing allowance and nursing benefit. Nursing allowance is granted to partially cover expenses related to care and support for a person with disabilities who is unable to lead an independent life. The nursing benefit is granted to one the child’s parent (or guardian) resigning from work in order to take care of a child with disabilities.
The insufficiency of social support measures was tackled by the 2018 major disability protests that asked for an additional monthly benefit (approx. EUR 120) for persons with severe disabilities, incapable of independent living after the age of 18. As of April 2019, this demand has not been met yet.

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Update date: Tue, 2019-05-14

D7. Additional costs

The 1997 Charter of Rights of Persons with Disabilities acknowledges that people with disabilities have the right to social security - taking into account the necessity of bearing higher costs related to disability and taking these costs into account in the tax system The Charter, however, was approved in the form of a resolution, so it is not binding, but rather represents the will of the Parliament. Legislation adopted after 1 August 1997 cannot contradict the terms of the Charter. The Charter also imposes an obligation on the Polish Government to provide information concerning the implementation of the rights of persons with disabilities. According to the Act of 26 July 1991 on Personal Income Tax, disabled taxpayers and non-disabled taxpayers who have disabled dependants may deduct amounts from their income expenses incurred for rehabilitation or facilitating life activities. There are numerous conditions that apply to such relief. With regards to other benefits, personal budget nor personal assistance are not included in publicly funded cross-country schemes of support for persons with disabilities. However, there are specific benefits related to additional living costs of persons with disabilities based on the different existing disability assessment systems. These include being entitled to financial support for rehabilitation equipment and technical aids; the eligibility to participate in rehabilitation programmes financed by the State Fund for the Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons (PFRON); public transport discounts; access to social, therapeutic and rehabilitation services provided by social welfare institutions and non-governmental organisations as well as exemption from the obligation to pay the broadcast receiving licence. The benefit system operates differently for children up to 16 years old: it allows parents (who terminate employment as a result of taking care of the disabled child) to obtain care allowance (PLN 1,583 in 2019) and a supplement to the family allowance for the child education and rehabilitation (PLN 90 for a child up to five years old and PLN 110 for a child between five and 16 years old).

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D8. Retirement income

As of 1 January 1999, the reform of the old-age pension scheme has come into force in Poland. Since then, two old-age pension schemes have been operating in parallel: old pension scheme (operating under earlier rules) – compulsory for persons born before 1 January 1949, and a new pension scheme (operating under the new rules) – compulsory for persons born in 1969 and after. According to the Act of 17 December 1998 on Old Age Pensions and Other Benefits from the Social Insurance Fund, people born between 1949 and 1968 could choose the funded option. The new minimum retirement age in the system is 65 for men and 60 for women. For the minimum pension, 25 and 20 years’ contributions are required from men and women, respectively. These requirements apply also to people with disabilities, however, those receiving incapacity pension (literally ‘pensions on the grounds of inability to work’), their incapacity pension is automatically changed into old-age pension when they reach the minimum retirement age (65 for men and 60 for women). In contrast, the social pension is not automatically changed into old-age pension when the pensioner reaches the minimum retirement age. Persons with disabilities in retirement age who do not receive either incapacity pension or social pension nor fulfil the requirements to receive an old-age pension, may apply for permanent allowance from the social assistance system. According to the Act of 12 March 2004 on Social Assistance, a person is eligible to receive a permanent allowance if s/he meets the income criteria and is totally incapable of working due to age or disability. The protests of disabled persons and their parents that took place in 2018 led to an increase in the social allowance to the sum of the lowest allowance of Polish Social Insurance Institution for those permanently unable to work.

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Update date: Tue, 2019-05-14

E. Education

E1. Special schools

According to the Regulation of the Minister of Education on assessments and opinions issued by the assessment’ teams in the public psychological-educational counselling centres of 18 September 2008, an evaluation for special educational purposes is made at the request of the child’s parent or guardian in public psychological-educational counselling centres by multidisciplinary teams. The team recommends the form of special education to be provided, for example, in a mainstream school, an integrated school or class, or a special school or class. This is a recommendation, and parents retain the right to send their child to the district mainstream school. While the Polish education system is steadily going into the direction of less segregated and more inclusive education, in practice, however, some parents may be under pressure from the school to place their child in a special school.

Special education is an integral part of the education system in Poland and a system of separate special schools remains, within a variety of schooling options, including non-public schools, home-schooling and remedial centres (for pupils with profound intellectual disabilities). According to the Regulation of Minister of Education of 17 November 2010 on conditions of organising education and care for children and young persons with disabilities and socially maladjusted in special kindergartens, schools or sections schools are organised for children with the following types of disability: deaf, hard of hearing, blind, vision impaired, motor-skill impairment, intellectual disabilities, autism including Asperger Syndrome, and multiple disabilities. Children and youth with profound intellectual disabilities may attend rehabilitation-educational classes. According to the Regulation of the Minister of Education of 30 January 1997 on organisation of rehabilitation-educational classes for children and youth with profound intellectual disabilities, they have the right to attend such classes from 3 - 25 years old. These classes can be provided in the education system (in public kindergartens and schools), in special educational care centres, non-governmental remedial centres, social care homes, community self-help homes and medical care centres; or at the child’s family home.

Even though the enrolment rate at special schools is reported relatively high, the transition from special education to inclusive education for children with disabilities lacks sufficient systemic policy measures. Research has shown, as in many other countries, that there is a regressive trend among children after completing primary school education. In 2016/2017, 67% of primary school pupils with special education needs (SEN) in Poland attended inclusive education, while only 51% of SEN secondary pupils were enrolled in inclusive education settings.

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E2. Mainstream schools

The Polish Constitution (1997) recognises the universal right to education and obliges public authorities to ensure universal and equal access to education for citizens (article 70), but there is no anti-discrimination legislation covering disability which applies specifically to education. The Act of 3 December 2010 on the Implementation of Certain Provisions of the European Union in the Field of Equal Treatment (hereafter, Act on Equal Treatment) prohibits unequal treatment in access to education and but only based on race, ethnic origin or nationality (article 7). The main legislative framework for the school education system is the Act of 14 December 2016 on Education System (hereafter, Act on Education System). Education in Poland is compulsory for all children and young people from the age of 7 to completion of the 8th grade and/or up to 18 years old. Persons with disabilities, especially moderate and severe intellectual disabilities have a right to education in primary school up to 20 years and to education in secondary school up to 24 years old, according to the Regulation of the Minister of Education of 9 August 2017 on the conditions for organising education, training and care for children and young people with disabilities. Revalidation and educational activities are organized for pupils between 3 - 25 years old. The Act on Education System provides that pupils with disabilities may attend any type of school according to their individual needs and possibilities, as well as the right to individual teaching, curricula and classes, and appropriate adjustment to the content of the curricula in order to correspond to individual abilities. According to the Act on Education System mainstreams schools have the legal responsibility to enrol every child living in their districts. Even if in the evaluation for special education there is a recommendation for special schools, parents still have the right to send their child to the district mainstream school. In practice, however, although the Polish education system is steadily going into the direction of less segregated and more inclusive education, some parents may be under pressure from the school to place their child in a special school. Mainstream schools are obliged to ensure that pupils identified as having special education needs receive education according to the recommendations in their assessment. Since 1 September 2011, mainstream schools are also obliged to develop individual plans based on a comprehensive professional multidisciplinary team evaluation of pupils with disabilities. The Regulation on conditions in mainstream or integrated schools (2010) does not impose an obligation on mainstream schools to hire specialists who work with pupils with disabilities and support regular teachers unless they have integrated or special classes. Such specialists may, however, be employed, with the permission of the governing authority.

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E3. Sign language and Braille in school

According to the Regulation of the Minister of Education on assessments and opinions issued by the assessment teams in the public psychological-educational counselling centres of 18 September 2008, an evaluation for special educational purposes is made at the request of the child’s parent or guardian in public psychological-educational counselling centres by multidisciplinary teams. The team recommends the form of special education to be provided, for example, in a mainstream, integrated or special school. The recommendations may concern learning Braille system in case of blind pupils, which is mainly provided in special schools for the Blind.

The Ministry of Education provides funds for adapting school textbooks and other texts in Braille. Article 71d of the 1991 Education System Act, regulated the issue of textbooks for students with disabilities. Pursuant to it “school textbooks and auxiliary books for special needs education for pupils with disabilities, including intellectual disabilities, blind, visually impaired and Deaf are subsidised from the state budget." Unfortunately, neither the law itself nor any regulations specify this and do not specify the entities responsible for the preparation and distribution of such manuals. The Education System Act of 2016 does not mention explicitly education in Braille, and more specific ordinances on the situation of pupils with special needs are applicable.

Poland adopted the Act of 19 August 2011 on Sign Language and other means of communication (Journal of Law 2011, No. 209, item 1243), which became fully effective from 1 April 2012. However, this legislation does not refer to education system. The Act on the Education System does not provide explicitly the obligation of conducting education of deaf children in sign language, and does not regulate the possibility of conducting education of Deaf children in bilingual schools, i.e. in schools where Deaf children will be able to learn Polish language and in Polish Sign Language. The Commissioner for Human Rights states that de facto the right to education in Polish Sign Language is not implemented effectively. Often pupils do not have the possibility to obtain education in Polish Sign Language even in schools dedicated to Deaf children. Organising Sign Language classes nor full education in Sign Language is not obligatory, thus depends on the headmaster decision.

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E4. Vocational training

Adult vocational training can be provided both in school (mainstream post-secondary schools for adults) and out-of-school forms (public continuing education centres, practical centres and in-service training centres and non-public education institutions). The Regulation of the Minister of Education on continuing education in out-of-school forms of 17 February 2012 introduced the obligation of vocational training providers to ensure conditions enabling persons with disabilities to participate in these trainings. The Act on Promotion of Employment (2004) also includes legal regulation concerning vocational training institutions. It includes public and non-public centres offering education in out-of-school forms for the unemployed and registered as training institutions by the regional authorities. The Polish Constitution (1997) recognises the universal right to education (article 70) as well as programmes to support vocational training (article 65). The Act on Equal Treatment prohibits disability-based discrimination in the context of vocational training, including further vocational training, in-service training, vocational retraining and professional practice (article 8). Moreover, the Act on Promotion of Employment and Institutions of the Labour Market of 20 April 2004 ensures that labour market institutions shall not discriminate against unemployed persons whom they direct to training on the grounds of disability (article 40). In general, after completing obligatory levels of education, students may continue their education in non-compulsory upper secondary schools or outside school education, yet in practice, many barriers exist.

Organisation of the upper secondary vocational schools is regulated by the Act on Education and its implementing regulations. The 2016 reform of education system resulted in shortening duration of compulsory general education and earlier tracking to general or vocational education secondary schools. Learning in general secondary schools (licea ogólnokształcące) lasts four years, upper secondary technical schools five years. A three-year special school preparation for employment is available for pupils with moderate and severe intellectual disabilities. Basic vocational education schools are replaced by vocational education schools (szkoły branżowe) at Level 1. After their completion, pupils have the possibility to continue vocational education in Level 2 schools. Graduates from technical schools and Level 2 schools have the possibility of taking an external vocational exam, as well as the graduation exam, and can continue education at university level.

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E5. Higher education

There is no anti-discrimination legislation covering disability, which applies specifically to higher education. The Act of 3 December 2010 on the Implementation of Certain Provisions of the European Union in the Field of Equal Treatment (Act on Equal Treatment) prohibits unequal treatment in access to higher education on grounds of race, ethnic origin or nationality (article 7) but not disability. In 2018, the reform of higher education initiated. Currently, the main legislative framework for the higher education system is the Law on Higher Education of 30 July 2018. Higher education is free of charge in public sector institutions for full-time day courses (a tuition fee is charged for part-time degree programmes). Since higher education institutions are autonomous, legislation does not precisely describe the content and scope of the support available to disabled students or university applicants. According to the Law on Higher Education (2018), one of the primary tasks of higher education institutions is creating conditions for persons with disabilities to participate fully in:
(a) the process of admission to a higher education institution for the purpose of study,
(b) education,
(c) carrying out scientific activities;
Students with disabilities have the right to apply for financial support on the same basis as other students and additionally, are entitled to a special disability scholarship.
Every college or university may also implement their own disability policy, employ a disability plenipotentiary and establish an office for persons with disabilities but this is always an autonomous decision of the institution. Therefore, the scope and quality of the support varies from one institution to another.

With regards to statistical data it has to be noted that, although the percentage of persons with disabilities who completed higher education in Poland has been increasing slightly in recent years, and reached 8.9% in 2016, in general disabled persons have much lower levels of education than non-disabled. The number of registered students with disabilities in tertiary education increased from 9,247 in 2005 to 31,623 in 2012, a rise from 0.48 % of total student’s population to 1.88%. Since then, the proportion remains relatively stable (1.86% in 2016), while the actual number of students decreases with the total number of students in higher education (25,121 in 2016).

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Update date: Tue, 2019-05-14

F. Employment

F1. Non-discrimination in employment

As a member of the European Union (EU), Poland has transposed into national legislation the provisions of the European Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 (hereafter, the Employment Directive), through amendments to the Labour Code (1974), the Act on Promotion of Employment and the Institutions of the Labour Market (2004), the Act on Rehabilitation (1997) and other legislation. The prohibition of discrimination applies to all labour market institutions, such as employment agencies and employment counselling services, as well as training courses for the unemployed. The rules apply equally to the public and private sectors; however they do not apply to independent professions (regulated to a large extent by self-regulatory bodies, such as for lawyers, legal advisors) or to self-employment. In order to fully transpose the Employment Directive (and four other EU directives), Poland adopted the Act of 3 December 2010 on the Implementation of Certain Provisions of the European Union in the Field of Equal Treatment, which entered into force on 1 January 2011. The law introduced to the Act on Rehabilitation (1997) the definition of necessary reasonable adjustments and obliges employers to ensure these for people with disabilities who are employed, participate in recruitment processes or undergo training, internships, etc. unless such measures would impose a disproportionate burden on the employer. However, the burden should not be regarded as disproportionate if it is sufficiently covered by public resources. Moreover, the Act on Equal Treatment (2010) prohibits disability-based discrimination in the context of: a) vocational training, including further vocational training, in-service training, vocational retraining and professional practice, b) conditions of access to employed or self-employed activities, c) membership of and involvement in trade unions, organisations of employers or workers, d) labour market instruments and services as set in the Act of Promotion of Employment (2004). According to the Polish Society for Anti-Discrimination Law, only a negligible number of actions have been brought before courts since the enactment of the Act, in which the claimant sought legal protection thereunder.

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F2. Public employment services

These tasks are fulfilled mainly by labour market institutions under the Act of 20 April 2004 on Promotion of Employment Labour Market Institutions (hereafter, Act on Promotion of Employment). Among labour market institutions there are public employment services: at the state level there is a Minister responsible for employment issues, at the provincial level there are provincial governors and marshals, and at a county level, county governors. Most provincial and county duties concerning labour market policy are performed by provincial and county labour offices. Public Employment Services in Poland provide a standard range of labour market programmes aimed at job-seekers and unemployed persons registered in labour offices. In addition, there are labour market instruments applied to unemployed persons who are in a specific situation on the labour market, among these are people with disabilities. The Act of 3 December 2010 on the Implementation of Certain Provisions of the European Union in the Field of Equal Treatment ensures that labour market instruments and services as set in the Act on Promotion of Employment (2004) are to be provided on equal terms to everyone, irrespective of disability (article 8). With regard to the situation of persons with disabilities, the Act of 27 August 1997 on Vocational and Social Rehabilitation and Employment of Disabled Persons ensures that persons with disabilities registered in labour offices as unemployed or job-seekers, have the right to use labour market instruments and services in accordance with the rules set out in the Act on Promotion of Employment (2004). Moreover, as some labour market programmes are aimed only at people registered as unemployed and persons with disabilities who are entitled to incapacity pensions cannot register as unemployed. The Act on Rehabilitation (1997) ensures access to several labour market instruments and services also available to disabled job-seekers. According to Article 11, persons with disabilities registered at labour offices as job-seekers (while not employed) may use some of the services and instruments according to the same rules as unemployed persons (e.g. with regard to training, internship, a programme of intervention which provides subsidised, postgraduate courses). These are, however, financed from the State Fund for Disabled Persons Rehabilitation, not from the Labour Fund. The mainstream job centres are often not critically assessed with regards to the support provided for the disabled job-seekers (and some of them remain hardly accessible for persons with various disabilities). Moreover, civil society actors call for the inclusion of regulation on employment support measures into general Labour Code, that would comply with the CRPD. The Commissioner for Human Rights, following the III Disabled Persons Congress held in 2017, have issued a letter to the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Policy calling for creating specialist instruments aimed supporting entering the labour market by disabled unemployed persons. It shall be noted that the disability employment gap is still a problem to address in Poland. In general, the estimates available from EU-SILC data indicate that Polish disability unemployment rates are below the EU average and with one of the widest disability employment gaps, at around 35 percentage points.

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F3. Workplace adaptations

The Act on Social and Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment of Persons with Disabilities obliges the employer to adapt the workstation to the needs of a disabled person. The obligation to provide reasonable accommodation for the disabled person extends to their employee, participants in the recruitment process or persons involved in training, placement, initial vocational training, apprenticeship or internship. A failure to make necessary reasonable accommodation is deemed an infringement of the principle of equal treatment in employment within the meaning of the Labour Code. However, if the accommodation requires a considerable financial effort that would impose a disproportionate burden on the employer, the employer is not obliged to provide it. However, the burden shall not be regarded as disproportionate if the costs are covered by public resources. It is crucial to note, that the Act on Rehabilitation contains two main provisions for reimbursements for adapting workplaces. First, according to article 26 of the Act on Rehabilitation, employers who employ persons with disabilities for at least 36 months may receive reimbursement from the State Fund for Rehabilitation for adapting existing, or creating, workplaces to meet the needs of people with disabilities, adapting or buying devices that help people with disabilities to function at work and recognising the needs of people with disabilities for medical services. Since 1 January 2009, the catalogue has been extended and employers may also be reimbursed for the purchase and authorisation of the software necessary for disabled employees as well as for assistive technologies and equipment. The reimbursement cannot exceed twenty times average remuneration. However, if the period is shorter the employer has to pay back to the Fund a part of the obtained funds proportional to the period of employment unless another disabled person, requiring the same adaptation, is employed within three months. Secondly, according to article 26e of the Act on Rehabilitation, employers who employ persons with disabilities who have been unemployed or seeking jobs for at least 36 months, may apply for reimbursement of costs of up to 15 times average remuneration related to equipping workplaces.

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F4. Financial incentives

According to the Act of 27 August 1997 on Vocational and Social Rehabilitation and Employment of Disabled Persons, employment of people with disabilities in Poland is encouraged above all through the quota system. Public and private enterprises with 25 or more full-time employees are required to ensure that 6% of their workforce consists of persons with disabilities or pay contribution to the Polish Fund for Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons (PFRON). In the education sector there is a 2% quota. Despite the quota system in the public sector, public institutions do not meet the expected level. In 2015 the public administration rate of employees with disabilities comprised only 3.9%. Other legislative solutions, mostly incentives for employers or measures that aim to increase self-employment of people with disabilities are in operation such as: 1) reimbursement of expenses incurred for the adaptation of workplaces and enclosed spaces for people with disabilities and adaptation or purchase of equipment to facilitate their functioning; 2) reimbursement of costs related to workplace adaptations; 3) partial reimbursement of training expenses incurred by employers for employees with disabilities; 4) one-time funding to start a business activity; 5) subsidies for payment of interest on bank loans taken to continue business activity. The State Fund for Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons also subsidises disabled employees’ salaries by up to 75% of the payroll costs of commercial employers and up to 90% in the case of others. The Act on Rehabilitation also sets out a number of rights, such as shorter working hours, additional days of leave and exemption from certain duties, applicable to employees with specific degrees of disability. Employers with a workforce consisting of 50% of persons with disabilities are entitled to benefits such as tax exemption and exemption from stamp duty.

Still, the disability gap in employment remains high. EU SILC data show that in 2017 the difference between disabled and non-disabled population employment rate was 49.6%. It is estimated that the number of persons with disabilities of working-age reaches 1.6 million, among which 1.18 million are economically inactive. Simultaneously, in the disability assessment system pejorative terminology is still in use. Disabled persons are assessed in terms of "complete inability to work" and "inability to independent living" which effectively hinders their employability, similarly to the existing benefit trap.

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G. Statistics and data collection

G1. Official research

The most important statistics on people with disabilities and their situation are published by the Central Statistical Office (CSO). Apart from data from censuses (last held in 2011) and the Labour Force Survey, disability statistics are included in various CSO publications on education, health care, social assistance, living conditions, culture, sport, and tourism. Additionally, data on unemployed persons with disabilities can be found in the statistical reports of labor offices. Extensive research focusing on diverse topics (e.g. disability assessment, needs of persons with disabilities, complex diagnosis of the situation of persons with disabilities towards a new model of disability policy) is also funded by the State Fund for Rehabilitation of Disabled People. A list of official statistics and CSO publications referring to the situation of persons with disabilities can be found on the official website of the Government Plenipotentiary for Disabled Persons and the State Fund for Rehabilitation of Disabled People. Moreover, the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights publishes thematic reports on disability policies (e.g. situation of Deaf persons, CRPD implementation, personal assistance). The Supreme Audit Office reports can also be considered as an important source of data. In addition, universities conduct research on disability issues, and the National Science Centre (an institution that provides funding for research) occasionally finances research in disability studies.

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G2. Census data

The last National Census of Population and Housing carried out in Poland took place from 1 April to 30 June 2011. The results were published in 2013 and are available on the webpage of the Central Statistical Office. The data provided by the Census concerning disabled persons contain information on the number and structure of disabled people according to the type of disability, its duration, gender and age, place of residence, marital status, legal status, level of education, sources of income and economic activity.

In the framework of the National Census of May 2002, data on the number of legally and biologically disabled persons were collected. The survey was carried out for the entire population of Poland and was obligatory. The Census of 2011 was carried out using a different methodology (mixed method). Information on the disabled persons - in accordance with the provisions of the Act of 4 March 2010 on the National Population and Housing Census 2011 - were collected in a representative survey but were obtained on a voluntary basis. According to the information on the website of the Government Plenipotentiary for Disabled Persons such an approach was conditioned primarily by the fact that the Constitution of the Republic of Poland (Article 51) does not allow for obtaining information on the state of health (including disability) on the basis of an obligation. In result, the census shows an underestimated percentage of persons with disabilities in relation to the total population. According to the 2011 Census, 12.2% of the population had a disability, whereas in 2002 14.3%.

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G3. Labour Force Survey

The Labour Force Survey (LFS), known as BAEL in Poland (Badanie Aktywności Ekonomicznej Ludności) has been carried out since May 1992 on a quarterly basis. It has been improved in accordance with Eurostat recommendations. The survey covers the economic activity of the population, including disabled people and it covers members of the households in the sampled dwellings. The information on the number of employed, unemployed and inactive disabled people (with legal certificates), as well as information on the size of the labour force participation rate, employment rate or unemployment rate, are provided. The data for 'voivodships' is also available. Additionally, the report 'Employment of disabled people in 2011' (from the ad hoc module on disability) contains basic information on the type of health condition, the impact of disability on the type of performed work, the number of hours worked during a week, the need to use special equipment or assistance of other people in order to perform work by disabled people.
It is important to highlight that the survey does not include the population living in institutional households, such as social welfare homes, therefore a large number of people with disabilities living in institutions is not included.

Links

Update date: Tue, 2019-05-14

G4. Disability equality indicators

Officially recognised disability equality indicators have not been identified.

Update date: Tue, 2019-05-14

H. Awareness and external action

H1. Awareness raising programs

A number of awareness raising programmes operate in Poland at the local and national level. They are mostly run by non-governmental organisations and sometimes financed from public funds such as the State Fund for Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons. Other public institutions, such as the Centre for Education Development provide awareness raising programmes for teachers. However, the Plenipotentiary Government for Equal Treatment 2017 activities report does not provide any information on awareness raising programmes.

The authors of the Alternative Report on the implementation of the UNCRPD address this issue critically. In their opinion, "the actions of the State in terms of raising awareness are marginal and are manifested mainly by transferring funds to NGOs that carry out these activities on their own initiative. Raising awareness in early childhood is based mainly on preschool education, and there are no integration efforts. The core curriculum for preschool and primary school treats disability in terms of charity: “the students know that children with disabilities are in a difficult situation and help them”. The core curriculum for middle and high schools promotes the ‘integrating model’, emphasising a positive attitude and respect for the dignity of pupils with disabilities. Despite the advantageous provisions in the core curriculum, there is a lack of monitoring as to whether the assumptions of the core curriculum are realised. As practice shows, this issue is often omitted in the educational process because of of the lack of knowledge among teachers on this matter. In higher education, even in social studies, disability stereotypes still prevail, and persons with disabilities are often still viewed through the prism of a person in a wheelchair".

In the Concluding Observation (2018), the CRPD Committee expressed concerns about:
(a) The negative perceptions of disability as being an “undesirable condition” and of persons with disabilities as being “of less value” than others;
(b) Persons with disabilities not being recognised as rights holders in society;
(c) The lack of measures taken to raise awareness of the rights of persons with disabilities as contained in the Convention.
The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Take specific measures to foster respect for the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities among the general public and parents, including the public and private media, medical personnel, education personnel, employers, and promote a positive image of persons with disabilities as human rights-holders;
(b) Involve the organisations of persons with disabilities when developing and delivering nationwide campaigns, awareness-raising programmes or training on the human rights model of disability and ensure systematic state-funded awareness-raising programmes.

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Update date: Tue, 2019-05-14

H2. Training for teachers

The Regulation of the Minister of Science and Higher Education of 17 January 2012 on the standards for teacher training (Journal of Laws 2012, No. 0, item 131), which entered into force 21 February 2012, regulates teacher training with regards to disability. In the basic (mandatory) study programme for teachers, the following educational contents are present: physical and intellectual disabilities, psychological consequences of disability, international and national disability legislation, psychological and educational support for pupils with special education needs, etc. The document also specifies educational standards in the specialisation modules including education and rehabilitation of people with intellectual disabilities, tyflopedagogy, Deaf pedagogy, rehabilitation and socio-therapy. According to this legislation, a graduate of the teacher training programme should have knowledge about pupils with special educational needs as well as knowledge and abilities in the scope of pedagogical diagnosis taking into account the special needs of pupils with intellectual disabilities. Moreover, the Regulation of the Minister of Education of 1 August 2017 on the specific qualifications required for teachers defines minimum qualifications of teachers working in special schools.

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Update date: Tue, 2019-05-14

H3. Training for lawyers

The Regulation of the Minister of Science and Higher Education of 12 July 2007 (Journals of Laws 2007 No. 164, item 1166) defines minimum standards for lawyers’ training. This does not include specific training on disability issues. However, academic courses on human rights, labour code and social security systems often introduce disability-related issues. The General Council of Advocates model guidelines for the Advocate's Training Programme issued in 2018 also do not refer to disability explicitly but include training in the framework on human rights and labour law. Similarly, judge's traineeship programmes include training on anti-discrimination in the labour market. The Commissioner for Human Rights reports that "Poland does not fulfil its obligation under Article 13(2) of the CRPD and does not provide systematic training for persons working in the justice system in the field of protection of the rights of persons with disabilities. The training programmes for judges and prosecutors conducted by the National School of Judiciary and Public Prosecution do not explicitly provide for any training block devoted to the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities". His research confirms that judicial staff has little knowledge of the real needs of people with disabilities, that can lead to stereotypical perceptions, which in extreme cases may have indirect (e.g. questioning the credibility of the blind person's testimony) or direct (e.g. considering the deaf person unable to care for the child) impact on the outcome of the proceedings. In 2017 the Ombudsman, as well as the Government Plenipotentiary for Equal Treatment, recommended trainings on the needs and stereotypes regarding persons with disabilities. Also, the Polish Society of Anti-Discrimination Law advocates for broader inclusion of anti-discriminatory issues into training programmes for lawyers. The recommendation for lawyers training was also expressed by the CRPD Committee in the Concluding Observation for Poland issued in 2018.

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Update date: Tue, 2019-05-14

H4. Training for doctors

The Regulation of the Minister of Science and Higher Education on the standards of education for the fields of study of medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, nursing and midwifery of 9 January 2018 defines minimum standards for doctors training. These standards include specific knowledge on disability issues such as definitions, social aspects of health and illness; inequalities in health; health, disease, disability and old age in relation to social attitudes, the social consequences of disease and disability, socio-cultural barriers and the health determinants of the quality of life concept; the adaptation process to illness and disability; functional assessment of disabled patient; epidemiology and frequency of disability occurrence; and basic disability assessment procedures.

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Update date: Tue, 2019-05-14

H5. Training for engineers

The Regulation of the Minister of Science and Higher Education of 29 September 2011 on educational standards for veterinary medicine and architecture defines minimum standards for engineers training. Disability is mentioned only very briefly in the document (not tackling explicitly accessibility nor reasonable accommodation). According to this Regulation, graduates of architecture studies should have the knowledge and skills that ensure security and the comfort of buildings, taking into account the needs of persons with disabilities.

Links

Update date: Tue, 2019-05-14

H6. International development aid

On 6 October 2015 the Council of Ministers adopted "Multiannual Development Cooperation Programme for 2016-2020" prepared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The document contains a strategy for action for developing countries. The programme was prepared on the basis of the Act of 16 September 2011 on the development cooperation that specifies official development assistance. According to the programme, priority support will be provided to ten countries. Assistance will be provided mainly to four Eastern Partnership countries (Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine) and six African, Asian and Middle East countries (Ethiopia, Kenya, Myanmar, Palestine, Senegal, and Tanzania). The document defines the thematic priorities of development cooperation among them the respect for human rights and civil liberties, improving health care and access to education, support for entrepreneurship, agriculture, and environmental protection, including prevention of the effects of natural and man-made disasters. Persons with disabilities are explicitly addressed within the support framework of human capital development in Belarus, Georgia, Palestine and Ukraine (including internally displaced persons with disabilities that constitute 4.2% of the total number of internally displaced persons within Ukraine). On the basis of the programme, annual action plans are established. The Development Cooperation Plan for 2019 tackles persons with disabilities explicitly with regards to cooperation with Belarus and Georgia. In Belarus, the aim is to increase the social inclusion of people with disabilities and children at risk of social exclusion. In Georgia following aims are set including: (a) better access to social services and improvement of infrastructure and functioning of centres for disabled people, victims of domestic violence and children without parental custody; (b) social inclusion of people with disabilities, victims of domestic violence and children without parental responsibility; (c) strengthening the care system and protecting the rights of children without parental custody, disabled persons and victims of domestic violence.

Links

Update date: Tue, 2019-05-14

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