May 23, 2014
Dr. Rajiv Shah
U.S. Agency for International Development
1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20004
Dear Administrator Shah:
As the United States considers humanitarian and economic assistance to Ukraine during this vital time of need the National Council on Disability (NCD) respectfully requests that such aid take into account the urgent needs of children with disabilities in institutions. At least 85,000 children, many of whom are children with disabilities, are segregated from society in Ukraine’s orphanages and disability institutions. This represents a serious human rights problem on a large scale deserving of immediate attention.
Assistance from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will no doubt advance the Ukrainian people’s efforts to embrace human rights and democratic values. There is now a window of opportunity in Ukraine to help children placed in orphanages and disability institutions. We must use this opportunity to replicate the broad successes of U.S. disability rights reforms that have helped people with disabilities, especially children with disabilities to remain with families and participate in all aspects of community life. Children with disabilities, like all other children, should grow up with their families and in community settings.
The United States has a long history and commitment to community integration of persons with disabilities as a matter of policy and civil rights law. As noted in NCD’s 2012 report Deinstitutionalization: Unfinished Business, United States law, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA, 1990) and the Supreme Court’s decision in Olmstead v. L.C. (1999), mandate that community living should be the rule, rather than the exception. NCD recommends that in implementing any new programs that affect persons with disabilities in Ukraine, USAID incorporate disability rights principles about full inclusion in society that are fundamental to U.S. law and practice.
NCD’s 2013 report Toward the Full Inclusion of People with Disabilities: Examining the Accessibility of Overseas Facilities and Programs Funded by the United States, recommended that USAID revise its 2004 Disability Policy as it “is outdated and provides little to no guidance as to how USAID programs can be made inclusive across all sectors of its development portfolio.” NCD reiterates the need for such a revision. Specific language is needed to make clear that U.S. funding should not be used to support disability institutions or orphanages.
A 2013 report by Disability Rights International (DRI), Left Behind: The Exclusion of Children and Adults with Disabilities from Reform and Rights Protection in the Republic of Georgia documented that while USAID played a valuable role in closing Georgia’s orphanages and helping children return to families in the community, persons with disabilities who were living in institutions were apparently left out of essential reforms. USAID funding in some instances, DRI reports has been used to renovate or refurbish segregated institutions for persons with disabilities. The NCD urges USAID to take a more inclusive approach in the future that is consistent with U.S. domestic disability law principles of non-discrimination and community-living.
The NCD urges USAID to ensure that assistance in Ukraine is reflective of the values of inclusion, equality and accessibility that we are proud of at home. NCD’s 2012 Deinstitutionalization Toolkit provides information, strategies, state data, and case studies that can facilitate closure and build community capacity to serve more people in the community.Additionally, DRI has international best practices for bringing an end to the segregation of children. We hope these suggestions are useful to you in planning USAID’s assistance to Ukraine.
 National Council on Disability, Deinstitutionalization: Unfinished Business (Companion Paper to Policy Toolkit), 15-16(October 23, 2012) /publications/2012/Sept192012/.
 National Council on Disability, Toward the Full Inclusion of People with Disabilities: Examining the Accessibility of Overseas Facilities and Programs Funded by the United States, 147 (2013)/publications/2013/032013/.
 Disability Rights International, Left Behind: The Exclusion of Children and Adults with Disabilities from Reform and Rights Protection in the Republic of Georgia (2013) http://www.disabilityrightsintl.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/Left-Behind-final-report.pdf.
 National Council on Disability, Deinstitutionalization Toolkit (2012) /publications/2012/DIToolkit/.
 Eric Rosenthal and Eric Mathews, Disability Rights International to U.S. and other donors to Ukraine, memorandum, “Urgent need to address humanitarian concerns of 85,000 children in Ukraine’s institutions,” April 8, 2014http://www.disabilityrightsintl.org/?p=2075.