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Postcommunist, Disability NGO, Social Eutrepreneur, Disability Policy
Disability activists and disability non-governmental organization (NGO) leaders in post-communist Central Europe have been among the most instrumental force for promoting disability rights and community-based living initiatives in their formerly communist countries. During an on-going period of massive economic and political transition, these disability activists and NGO leaders managed to take advantage of emerging civil society freedoms and have established innovative models for the promotion of disability issues throughout the post-communist region. Of particular note are those initiatives that have addressed the needs of people with mental disabilities. The use of the term “mental disabilities” in this article refers to a diverse group of people who share the common experience of institutionalization due to perceived differences in emotion, perception, and/or cognition and who have faced longstanding barriers to community living in communist and post-communist Europe. The following article describes the national and historical contexts for people with mental disabilities in the Visegrad Four countries of Central Europe: Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland. It then highlights a number of innovative disability NGOs that are promoting human rights and community living for people with mental disabilities in each country. Implications for international collaboration with disability NGOs, and the importance of international disability policies, are discussed.
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