The disabled are upset at being forced to work

Kristiina Peetsalu.

PHOTO: Mihkel Maripuu

For those troubled in health, work capacity reform has meant change at which some rejoice and others are saddened. What seems to feel the worst is the attitude in some officials that they are nothing but lazy. 

Since she was six, Kristiina Peetsalu (36) has diabetes and is by now almost totally blind. Also, she has a transplanted kidney and one leg amputated. An active young woman, she is not about to sit at home but had Master’s from Tartu University in teaching Estonian as a foreign language, and is currently studying at Tallinn University to be special education teacher and adviser. On top of that, she works as a consultant at North-Estonian blind people’s association, where she also sits at the board.  

With the work capacity reform, she is most disturbed by the disabled persons’ opinion not sufficiently considered with preparations for a major reform like this. They did ask for feedback, but failed to provide time enough to answer.

«When we are sent a document of dozens of pages and are told that they actually needed the feedback yesterday, then with all the other activities this is hard to do,» she said.

For Ms Peetsalu, the worst with the reform is that no attention is paid to employers who need to be motivated to hire the handicapped. Also, there is the problem with transportation.  

To this, Sven Reemet (50) agrees, a man with a leg amputated ten years back.

«What’s worst is all the talk of forcing people to work, while to begin with they should offer jobs and support getting there. For instance, it is very difficult for people to get hired who need to leave promptly to get on the bus,» he noted.

«Employers are not too inclined to hire people who cannot do extra hours. Even more difficult for rural people with mobility disability to go to work in towns, without such transport available.»

For Mr Reemet, the «keeping people active» is basically having them run around and be busy which may be to no avail finding work.

«I, for instance, taught myself to repair wheelchairs. Hired by no-one, I had to establish my own company and administrate everything,» he said. «Few are the enterprises who need skills like mine.»

Ms Peetsalu sees yet another flaw with the reform: it is not just to deprive the disabled of benefits when they earn the average wages more or less.

«Going to work does not mean the disappearance of the costs related to the disability. As a rule, for an active individual these are even higher. These are not sufficiently covered by the disability support,» he stated.


The work capacity reform boosting numbers of people officially able to work, many of these will probably fail to land a job. Therefore, central bank predicts unemployment rise to 7.5 percent by 2017, and to 9.4 percent by 2018.