Case 115

CPAD. 2011. Judgment No. 115.
Download Judgment: English
Country: Bulgaria
Region: Europe
Year: 2011
Court: Commission for Protection against Discrimination in Republic of Bulgaria
Health Topics: Disabilities
Human Rights: Freedom from discrimination
Tags: Blind, Disabled, Handicapped, Physically challenged

The complaint was brought by Zoya Trifonova, in her capacity as chairperson for the foundation “Center for Hope” against ‘Metropolitan’ EAD, an entity owned by Sofia municipality and administrator of the city’s metro rail services.

The construction of the metro station ‘Sofia University’ hindered the access of persons with disabilities to use public transportation. Trifonova’s complaint alleged that such a method of construction met the basis of discrimination as defined by Article 4 of the Protection Against Discrimination Act (PDA), in relation to article 5 of the PDA. Article 4 “prohibits any direct or indirect discrimination on the basis of ‘disability’”.  Article 5 “considers the building and maintenance of urban built environments that set impediments to the access of disabled people to public places as discrimination.”

An outside expert was asked to conduct an inspection of all operational metro stations in Sofia to find which stations did and which did not have equally accessible entries for people with and without disabilities. The uncontested expert opinion determined that only 8 of the existing 14 metro stations fulfilled requirements for accessibility related to the installation of tactile warning strips. It also determined that in three of the stations no accessible entry to the underpass was provided. In four other locations accessibility is provided from the sidewalk to the underpass only by a single lift, unfavorably treating disabled persons in relation to others.

The Commission for Protection against Discrimination in Republic of Bulgaria  (the Commission) ruled that the absence of tactile warning strips in the station “Jolio Curie” resulted in Metropolitan EAD providing people of visual impairment with inferior quality and unfavorable conditions on the basis of disability. It found this to constitute direct discrimination under Article 4 paragraph 2 with reference to Article 5 and Article 37 of the PDA.

The Commission ruled that by failing to act during its reconstruction and refurbishment projects of 2009 and by failing to build accessible entries in certain other stations, Sofia municipality and Metropolitan EAD had  built an urban environment which hindered the access of disabled persons to public spaces and constituted direct discrimination on the basis of disability, thus infringing Articles 5 and 4, paras 1 and 2 of the PDA, respectively. The Commission levied fines on the relevant bodies for such violations.

The Commission issued mandatory prescriptive orders to the mayor of the municipality to take appropriate measures in rectifying the construction issues at the infringing metro stations.

“The analysis of the aforementioned provision concludes that if the facilities of the transport physical infrastructure have not been designed, executed and maintained in compliance with the requirements for accessible environment of the community, then the available urban built environment has been built in a way that impedes the access of disabled people to public places, and this constitutes discrimination and violation of art.5 of the PDA.” Page 4

“For the purpose of the assigned task to the expert, ‘equally accessible’ shall refer explicitly to passages, routes and entries of metro stations with constructed accessible urban built environment for the whole community, consistent with the effective at the moment requirements of Regulation No 4 of 01.07.2009 for design, execution and maintenance of constructions in compliance with the requirements for accessible environment for the community, including for disabled people, issued by the Ministry of regional development and public works.” Page 6