Today the European Court of Human Rights heard the case of Gherghina v. Romania, concerning the allegations of the applicant’s inability to pursue higher education because of the lack of accessible buildings for people with disabilities, and the failure to provide reasonable alternative solutions.
In 2001, Mr. Gherghina was in a motor-vehicle accident that severely impaired his ability to use his legs and he became wheelchair bound. In 2007, he gained back the ability to move on his own on flat surfaces, if handrails or access ramps were available to him. The university originally allowed Mr. Gherghina take his exams at home due to his limited mobility, but in 2007, this privilege was taken away. The only option offered to Mr. Gherghina was to repeat his third year of school under the distance-learning program; which did not provide him with any real learning benefit. Mr. Gherghina then enrolled at two different higher education institutions, but neither school was equipped to cater to his disability.
Mr. Gherghina alleges that that he has been discriminated against because of his disability, making it impossible for him to continue his higher education studies in or near the town where he lives. He argues that there is a lack of buildings that accommodate his disability and has not been provided reasonable alternative solutions. Mr. Gherghina claims a violation of Article 2 (right to education and right to life) and Article 5 (right to liberty and security), additionally arguing that he has been denied the right to develop his personality and build relationships with the outside world because there are no buildings near his town that accommodate his disability.
I do not think that Mr. Gherghina allegations will rise to the level that his right to education, life, and liberty and security have been violated. I believe that Mr. Gherghina should be given the appropriate access to education and the ability to be mobile in his town. However, I do not think the court will find that this will rise to a violation of his right to life or liberty. It may be a violation of his education, but he was given the opportunity to participate in the distance-learning program, which provides for a reasonable alternative for the time being. How do you think the European Court of Human Rights should decide? Did the university provide reasonable alternatives to his education?
Source: European Court of Human Rights
Mr. Ghergina was clearly not provided with any viable alternatives. I find it appalling that in this day and age, somebody would be basically denied a fair opportunity due to his disabilities. It seems as if the educational institution was penalizing the individual for his misfortune. Schools should be equipped to provide students with disabilities the means to get education they long for and deserve. This of course is also associated with proper government funding. In the case at bar, Ghergina alleges violation of Article 2 (right to education and right to life) and I believe he should be able to succeed on these grounds. I agree that the court is unlikely to hold that this cause infringement on his liberty interest, but the institution undoubtedly deprived him of his right to education. Also, this conduct should be enough to show discrimination against students with disabilities, which is unacceptable. No matter what the court decides, there needs to be some legal remedy for Mr. Ghergina.