“All people deserve to have agency over their lives.”
This is what Samantha told us when asking her what brought her to Bulgaria.
Samantha was born and raised in Montreal, Canada. She holds an undergraduate degree in International Studies from Bishop’s University and has just completed her second year of law school at McGill University. During her summer internship, Samantha looks forward to exploring her interest in the intersection between human rights, law, and social policy. Last summer, Samantha worked alongside a lawyer advocating for the rights of the elderly and became aware of the need to empower more vulnerable individuals in their own decision-making. Samantha firmly believes that in the name of human dignity and equality, all people deserve to have agency over their lives. In her view, we can foster more respectful, inclusive, and free societies by enabling all individuals to have control over their decisions.
Samantha is extremely grateful for the opportunity to delve into the topic of disability rights at the Bulgarian Center for Not-For-Profit Law. Samantha chose BCNL for her summer internship this year because of the “Next Step” Program we are developing and everything we could share with her regarding people with disabilities’ rights in Bulgaria. The reason our program is globally known is the Draft Law for Physical Persons and Support Measures – one of the best developed regulations with respect to the rights of people with disabilities as they are recognized by the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. The draft law reflects the outcome of 6 pilot projects implementing the so called supported-decision making for people with intellectual and mental health problems. More than 180 people and their families are supported through the projects, dozens guardianships were prevented, 7 guardianships were fully removed. The key aim of the draft law is to acknowledge that every human can exercise his/her rights and if needed to be supported to do it with respect to the person’s will and preferences.
The Next Step Program has been developed during the last 7 years by the Bulgarian Centre for Not-for-Profit Law (BCNL), the Bulgarian Association for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities - BAPID (with 6 pilot projects managed by Parallel World Association in Plovdiv, the St Nicholas the Wonderworker Foundation in Dobrich, the Zakrila–Lovech Association in Lovech, the Regional organization for support of persons with intellectual disabilities in Vidin, the Autism Association in Sofia and the Innovation Association in Bobovdol) and the Global Initiative in Psychiatry Foundation - Sofia. After multiple public hearings, civil initiatives for support, the law is still not adopted. But our efforts continue and will continue until to each of us, whether with or without disability and no matter how severe it is, is guaranteed equality before the law and respect for the persons’ will.
Samantha, we wish soon you are going to spread the word in Canada on our success with the new law!