For many disabled people, their disability means not being able to find and perform a job. But Kęstutis Gumbrys is one of about 50,000 people with disabilities in Lithuania who are employed.
Kęstutis has a hearing impairment and works as a pricing assistant in a Vilnius supermarket – he checks price tags on products.
“It's all easy for me, easy to communicate and, generally, we get along well with colleagues,” he tells LRT TV. “It's not difficult for them to write a note or an email, if something happens. I feel valued and equal.”
To improve the lives of people with dissabilities, the Lithuanian government has approved proposed tax cuts that would mostly affect senior workers and those with working capacity between 30 and 55 percent. The authors of the bill say that the cuts would raise disabled workers' monthly income by between 40 and 60 euros.
“We essentially want to draw attention to the situation of the disabled in Lithuania. As we know, this group is most at risk of poverty, twice as much as able-bodied people,” says MP Monika Navickienė. “This bill will not solve all the problems, it will only affect those people with disabilities who already work or could join the labour market.”
Only a small fraction of the disabled will benefit from the measure, says the Lithuanian Disability Forum, an umbrella organisation. The proposal shows that the government does not have a comprehensive strategy of how to assist people with disabilities.
While additional income for some of them is welcome, the proposal will only exacerbate existing gaps, says Henrika Varnienė, head of the administration of the Disability Forum.
“The law does not change anything, it widens the gap between those with the most severe disabilities who can't work and those who can,” she tells LRT TV.
According to estimates, the measure will cost the central government and municipalities some 17 million euros.