Impact Feature Issue on Self-Determination and Supported Decision-Making for People with Intellectual, Developmental, and Other Disabilities

Self-Determination of Persons with Disabilities: Challenges in Armenia


Ruzanna Sargsyan is Program Manager with the Pyunic/Armenian Association for People with Disabilities, Yerevan, Armenia. She may be reached at rsarg@mail.com.

Self-determination and inclusion, especially as it applies to persons with disabilities, are relatively new concepts in Armenia. The decision of the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports to realize full inclusion by 2025 provides an opportunity for children and youth to exercise their right to education.

People with intellectual disabilities and those who are considered unable to make their own decisions by the Medical Expertise Committee in Armenia are promptly connected with a legal guardian and deprived of self-determination. In a majority of cases, parents are the legal guardians, but there are also cases where the grandparents or aunts/uncles serve as guardians. In Armenia there is not a developed system of Supported Decision-Making. People with disabilities other than intellectual, on the other hand, are able to exercise self-determination and make decisions of their own.

There is a big difference between the situation in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, and two or three other big cities, compared to more remote regions. In big cities, people are more or less aware of their rights and they are trying to realize them. Here, non-governmental organizations  (e.g., Pyunic, Lusastgh, Unison, Astghik, Full Life, and many others) play a big role in supporting people with disabilities to live more self-determined lives. They bring the problems faced by their beneficiaries in their daily lives to the policymakers and persuade them to take into account their recommendations when preparing policies and laws.

I consider capacity-building and empowering of people with disabilities to exercise their rights as very important for their self-determination. There are many people with disabilities in Armenia who are self-determined and are able to make decisions of their own.  Much depends on the type of their disability. In the case of people with severe disabilities, it is very difficult to exercise their rights and self-determination to be included in the community life, education, and employment as there are no established mechanisms to make it a reality in Armenia.