Tbilisi Court of Appeals Found Discrimination on the Grounds of Disability
“We started at the court so that a similar case would not be repeated and another child with disabilities would not experience what I went through. I think they should also raise their voice if someone is being treated unfairly because there is a point in fighting.” –says 19-year-old Nini.
After a five-year struggle, the Tbilisi Court of Appeals issued a decision on February 14, 2023, that established discrimination against Nini on the basis of disabilityby the Ministry of Education and Science. In the case, Partnership for Human Rights (PHR) protected the rights of a child with disabilities, with the support of USAID/PROLoG and the USAID Rule of Law Program.
Nini was attending Telavi Public School N9 since 2009. Her mother carried her to school until 2015, when Nini began traveling to school in a wheelchair. In 2017, due to rehabilitation work, the school moved to a new building far from her house. The school established a transportation service for students.
When selecting the transport service, the Ministry and the school did not consider Nini's needs and the transport was not suitable for her wheelchair. The change was quite difficult for Nini, her mother, could not take her to school without adequate transport that she herself could not provide for. 14-year-old Nini and her mother started fighting for Nini’s right to go to school. Her mother wrote letters to the school and the Ministry of Education and Science requesting that adapted transport be provided, but in vain.
In Spring 2018, PHR got involved in the case and applied to the Telavi District Court requesting it establish discrimination against Nini on the grounds of disability. Nini herself appeared in court proceedings and actively defended her rights. In November 2021, the Telavi District Court did not satisfy the lawsuit, holding that the school is not obligated to provide transportation to students and that it was not obligated to consider Nini’s needs during the tender.
PHR appealed the decision to the Tbilisi Court of Appeals. Despite the distance, Nini participated in all court proceedings either in-person or remotely. Although she has since graduated, Nini was only given the option of studying at home and was unable to participate in school life. She explained to the judges what she was going through when, due to her disability, she could no longer go to school. The judges listened attentively to Nini throughout the proceedings. On February 14, 2023, the Tbilisi Court of Appeals (Judges Mariam Tsiskadze, Shota Getsadze, and Inga Kvatchantiradze) issued their decision and found discrimination on the grounds of disability on the part of the Ministry of Education and Science. The Ministry was ordered to pay moral damages. Nini’s first words after the announcement of the decision were: I'm speechless, I'm so happy. I cannot talk.