On July 1, 1994, the new Government Authority the Disability Ombudsman was setup and tasked according to a special law, The Disability Ombudsman Act (1994:749) of monitoring issues on rights and interests of persons with disabilities.
The goal of the operation was full participation and equality within society for all persons with disabilities. Authorities, county councils and municipalities were, according to the law, obligated to provide information at the request of the Disability Ombudsman. They were also obligated to participate in deliberations. I was appointed General Director by the Government.
One task was to disseminate and anchor the UN’s standard regulations for persons with disabilities. This was a major public relations task and I visited most of the country’s nearly 300 municipalities. I have never traveled so much. Arlanda Airport 7:00 AM, morning after morning. We devised a range of informational material that was rewarded with honors.
The Authority also had an investigative task.
Each year, I wrote a report to the Government on the condition of the country for persons with disabilities. After five years as the Disability Ombudsman, I summarized my experiences: Ref No. 510/1999
The fact that the Authority was established and became known, was a success.
The number of reported cases increased from 85 to 141. Consultations from 500 to 1,085. The number of articles on our surveys and cases during the first quarter of 1999 was close to 900.
I also pointed out that there were municipalities that ignore judgements.
“This creates a feeling of powerlessness. It is also difficult to imagine any other area where contempt of court, of this kind, would be accepted for such long a time. It stands as a symbolic issue: When it comes to persons with disabilities, the law does not need to be followed!”
This was the fifth year that this was highlighted. The problem continues, now, 15 years later and has been a repeated theme of the last Almedalen Week.
“In Sweden, there is a strong perception that our country is highly prominent, “best”, in regard to measures that give persons with disabilities equal conditions. This is a far too simplistic picture. This perception about Sweden is, in itself, an obstacle for self-awareness and analysis of what needs to be done to ensure that the UN’s standard regulations are realized in Sweden.”
Illustration: Leif Zetterling, 1996