Disabled student. Suitable facilities and education for people with disabilities. Romania has taken adequate measures to allow access.
Stoian v. Romania 25.06.2019 (no.289/14)
Disabled student. Facilities suitable and edication for people with disabilities. Romania has taken adequate measures to enable access to suitable facilities in schools for pupils with special needs and to provide adequate support for their education.
The Stoian v. Romania case (No 289/14) concerned the complaints of the applicants, the disabled son and hiw mother that the authorities had not provided adequate access to education for the son.
The Court held that the authorities had complied with their obligation to provide reasonable accommodation for the first applicant by allocating resources and covering his educational needs as well as the existence of an adequate program for covering children with disabilities.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled unanimously that there has been no violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights, in conjunction with Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination), and violation of Article 2 of the First Additional Protocol (right to education).
Article 2 of the First Additional Protocol
The applicants, Ștefan-Moshe Stoian and Luminiţa Stoian, are Romanian nationals who were born in
2001 and 1967 respectively and live in Bucharest. They are a son and his mother.
Mr Stoian has spastic quadriplegia, which affects the functions of his limbs but not his mental
faculties. He relies on devices such as electric wheelchairs, mopeds and tricycles to get around. He
has been wheelchair-bound since a spinal operation in 2011.
The authorities decided in 2007 that he should attend mainstream schools. However, the applicants
alleged that two schools which Mr Stoian attended from 2007 to 2013, School No. 131, and from
2015 to 2017, the Mihail Eminescu High School, were not adapted for his use.
In particular, the first school did not have proper toilet facilities for disabled people and had no
access ramps. His mother had often had to carry him and his walking devices to the upper floors,
help him to go to the toilet and do his physiotherapy exercises.
Similar problems existed in the second school, where a lack of access meant his mother had had to
carry him around. The school had also failed to provide for his basic needs, such as personal and
intimate care, eating and moving around. The second school’s curriculum had also not been adapted
to his needs.
The Government stated that both schools had had facilities for the first applicant and that the
authorities had taken steps to improve and adapt them over time.
The first applicant benefited from some educational support in both of the schools as well as
physiotherapy and occupational therapy. In 2011 Ms Stoian asked for a personal assistant for her
son and in July of that year a court ordered that one be appointed. The authorities arranged
interviews and he had such assistance for short periods in 2014 and 2015.
The second applicant lodged various complaints with the authorities, the National Council against
Discrimination, the courts and the prosecutor’s office about the failure to provide proper facilities and support for her son to attend school. The Country Court in June 2016 issued an order to the local authorities to take steps to improve Mr Stoain’s access to education, including by adapting the curriculum, providing safe surroundings and specialist personnel, and improving access.
The second applicant undertook enforcement proceedings over the lack of a personal assistant and
the courts found that the authorities had failed to fully comply with the requirement to appoint one.
In January 2018 the District Court ordered them to pay 200 Romanian lei a day for each day of delay
THE DECISION OF THE COURT …
The applicants had relied on several different provisions in their application but the Court decided to
examine it under Article 8 and Article 2 of Protocol No. 1, alone and in conjunction with Article 14.
It noted that the authorities had decided that Mr Stoian should attend mainstream schools, which
was in line with international standards.
At the same time, the third-party observations had made clear the difficulties faced by disabled
people owing to a lack of infrastructure and reasonable accommodation for people with special
needs. The Government had admitted that there had been delays in making sure that the school
buildings in question had been accessible.
According to its case-law, in situations of a lack of accessibility States had an obligation to make
reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities from the time such accommodation was
requested, although that could not be interpreted as imposing a disproportionate or undue burden
on the authorities. In education, reasonable accommodation could take the form of accessibility to
buildings, teacher training, adaptions of the curriculum or facilities.
The Court observed that Mr Stoian had never been completely deprived of an education as he had
attended school, had been graded and had advanced through the curriculum.
The authorities had been aware of their obligations to him and the courts had reiterated those
obligations in a consistent manner. The courts had also reacted quickly and adequately to changes in
the first applicant’s situation and had renewed their instructions to the authorities.
There had been difficulties in finding suitable personal assistants for the first applicant, although
some of those difficulties had been created by the applicants themselves, in particular by the second
applicant, who had asked assistants to perform tasks that had not been part of their responsibilities.
Ms Stoian had also resisted some of the authorities’ other efforts, refusing speech therapy,
assistance by a support teacher and several options for a stair lift in the second school.
Stressing that it was not its task to define which resources were necessary to meet the educational
needs of children with disabilities, the Court added that the authorities nevertheless had to take
great care in their choices, especially given the particular vulnerability of disabled people.
In this case the authorities had not turned a blind eye to the first applicant’s needs, but had
allocated resources to his schools in order to accommodate his special requirements.
Given all the circumstances, the Court found that the authorities had complied with their obligation
to make reasonable accommodation for the first applicant, which had not imposed a disprortionate
or undue burden. They had also allocated resources to meet the educational needs of children with
disabilities in a manner that had been within the limits of their discretion (“margin of appreciation”).
There had therefore been no violation of these Articles of the Convention.
The Court rejected a complaint by the applicants about the police’s removal of the second applicant
from school after an argument with her son’s teacher in April 2013 as manifestly ill-founded(echrcaselaw.com).