Despite the enactment of regulations and measures designed to raise the equality of people with intellectual difficulties, Bulgaria still lacks effective and working programmes for supported employment and job brokerage services for disabled job seekers. Finding work is a major challenge, particularly for young people with intellectual difficulties. Social stigma is still pervasive and is the main reason for their isolation and the infringement of their basic human rights, including the right to work. In Bulgaria, people with intellectual difficulties are still perceived as being unable to lead a ‘normal’ life and of little use to society in general. The representatives of this group often spend their time on their own or within their immediate families, without any meaningful occupation, full-bodies social contacts or choice as regards the development of their potential.

The negative factors that contribute to a rise in people with disabilities as a risk group on the labour market are compounded by the firmly rooted negative stereotypes in society, the lack of adapted workplaces and access to them. The built-in limitations of the environment create ever higher barriers to social inclusion—indeed, much more difficult to overcome than any functional disability.

The stereotypes and prejudices inherited from the past lead to—broadly speaking—to three types of prejudices in employers: on the one hand, they are still not fully prepared to hire disabled workers whilst, on the other hand, the high levels of unemployment are used to perpetuate the myth that this group of workers is virtually unemployable. According to the third prevalent attitude disabled workers—particularly those with more serious disabilities—are simply regarded as unfit to work. Today, on the basis of applying good practices in the area of employment, these attitudes and wrong perceptions are gradually changing and employers are showing at least a degree of willingness to hire people with disabilities. The reason is that disabled workers have proven that they are capable to carry out the tasks assigned to them. Supported employment, which first became widespread in Europe in the early 1990s and still gathering momentum in Bulgaria, is a case in point.

Related article: Supported employment programme at the Worlds Day Care Centre

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