Larisa Cherkesova
Deputy Coordinator
Rehabilitation, Vocational Training and Employment Working Group

The aim of the All-Russia Association of the Blind (VOS) at the present stage of social and economic development is rendering assistance in carrying out of the state policy in the field of social protection of visually disabled people, providing them with equal opportunities in realization of civil, economic, political and other rights and freedoms.

The main method of achieving of this aim is complex rehabilitation of visually disabled people, enabling them to restore social status, to achieve financial independence and adapt in the society.

Rehabilitation of visually disabled people is a leading trend of activities of the All-Russia Association of the Blind (VOS). The rehabilitation work is carried out in accordance with the VOS Statutes, decisions of VOS Congresses, resolution 48/96 of the UN General Assembly of 20.12.1993, the Federal law "On Social Protection of Disabled Persons in the Russian Federation", other legislative acts and documents regulating issues of social and legal protection of the disabled. While defining aims and the context of social and rehabilitation activities VOS relies upon its long experience accumulated in this field, achievements of science and the international experience.

VOS carries out the work on improving the rehabilitation basis of the visually disabled together with legislative and executive bodies, as well as with other corresponding structures and organizations at the federal and regional levels.

Rehabilitation of visually disabled people includes the following:
1. Medical rehabilitation,
2. Vocational rehabilitation,
3. Social rehabilitation of the disabled.

Vocational rehabilitation includes training, creation of a special workstation, carrying out of vocational adaptation, employment.

The difficulties of solving the employment issues are connected with absence in some regions of finances on the programs of social protection of the disabled and investments to retain workstations for the visually disabled. The difficulties in employment of the visually disabled are also connected with the fact that many people need work at home, which is extremely difficult to be organized in present conditions.

Since 1998 all VOS factories became commercial companies, all directors should report to VOS President. The majority of disabled workers employed at our factories are visually disabled. Their number is 50 - 1000 persons at each factory depending on the size of the factory. The workers (men and women) are 30 - 50 years old. Their education: the majority graduated from secondary schools, the minority have higher education and in this case they work as managers at the factories.

VOS industry consists of 13 branches: wire harnesses, car spare parts and components, electrical installations, lamps, electrical engineering items, knitted articles, cardboard and paper articles, corks, metal items, food products, brushes. These articles are produced by 170 factories located on the territory of the Russian Federation.

The major part of equipment and materials of VOS factories is financed by VOS. Much equipment has to be replaced, since it is worn out and obsolete. Non-disabled workers work 40 hours per week, disabled workers only 35 hours, thus total 250 days per year. After the working day, if they want, blind workers can go to the Braille lessons, get computer habits, undergo rehabilitation or learn new technologies. All the workers have to get to the factories by themselves, public transport is free and specials coaches are provided.

At the present time not all VOS factories are competitive. A new stage of competition is not just market price, but a guaranteed quality and design. To achieve this the following measures should be taken: substantial change of the technology level, reduction of manual labor which can influence the quality at present, to increase the corporative culture within VOS.

At present more than 2200 computers are used in VOS system, more than 200 of them in regional organizations and about 2000 at the factories.

Cancellation of benefits and introduction since 2002 of a tax on profits and of insurance fees on obligatory pension insurance greatly deteriorated the financial and economic position of VOS factories.

The average monthly salary of visually disabled workers at the majority VOS factories is lower in comparison with the salary in the region on the whole.

Decrease of number of disabled workers at VOS factories is connected not only with economic problems at some factories but with adoption of a Federal law "On Labor Pensions in the Russian Federation" in which a notion of restriction of abilities of disabled persons for labor is introduced. The sum of pension is fixed respecting on the level of limitations of disabled people for labor activities. In this situation disabled persons getting the 2-nd level of limitations lose about 1300 rubles per month. As aresult they refuse to work.

Since 2005 VOS factories in many regions began to experience difficulties due to lack of visually disabled workers who need to be employed.

The Federal program "Social Support of Disabled Persons in 2006-1010" envisages carrying out of events on modernization of VOS factories.

In a city of Naltchik, Kabardino-Balkaria (in the South of Russia) there is one VOS factory where 50 workers are employed, 50% of them of visually disabled. This factory specializes on production of corks, sirens, etc. The salaries are not high, since the products of the factory are not profitable. The factory earns the profit mainly from letting their premises. No profit is gained from production. There is a club at the factory where visually disabled workers spend their free time, participate in amateur activities, practice sports.