3rd DISEMEX TPM (Transnational Project Meeting) in Sofia organised by the Bulgarian Development Agency.

The 3rd DISEMEX TPM was held as a two-days event at the Hill Business Center in Sofia, organised by project partner BDA. On the first day, various organisational issues of the project were discussed and a foundation for day care and employment of people with disabilities made a presentation on their activities. There was a meeting with the activist of the deaf people foundation on the 2nd day, who reported on the complicated situation of practical inclusion of deaf people in Bulgaria in the labour market.

On the 29th of January the Foundation “Maria’s world” presented its work. Having started as a small initiative for day care for people with mental disabilities, the foundation currently looks after 35 clients. Some of those (7 persons) have become a part of the new project, a catering company “Bon Appétit”, which provides catering service for the centre itself as well as for external customers. Recently the foundation started to conduct practical non-formal traineeships for young people with mental disabilities with a total number of 15 persons. 10 of them already work in external positions: in a bakery, hotels, by cleaning companies of performing assisting office jobs. The consortium partners agreed that these work placements might be the first practical examples of integrating people with mental and intellectual disabilities into the labour market, although it is still heavily subsided by state funding.

On the 30th of January “Listen Up” Foundation – an association of deaf people presented their case. From the very start it was emphasized that deaf people do not generally like to be referred to as people with disabilities, but rather as people with different language skills, i.e. using sign language instead of a spoken or written language. In this respect, they first of all require better access to information and not care or help. The level of inclusion of deaf people in Bulgaria remains very low, especially compared to other countries such as the USA, UK, Sweden and Denmark. The showcase employment proves that as well: out of approx. 15.000 deaf persons in Bulgaria, almost 100% are employed, but in 99% of the cases merely on paper, becoming a minimum wage and providing no work in return. Practically there´s not more than 20 individuals being effectively engaged into professional activities, mostly low-skilled, and only 4 of them are known to hold management positions. This situation leads to further marginalizing of deaf people being marked as a group not willing to give any output on one side and discouraging the deaf people themselves to perform proactively, on the other.

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