Radoš Keravica is a person with mobility impairment who studied economics at the University of Novi Sad, Serbia, Faculty of economics, Department for European Economics and Business where he was awarded a BSc degree in 2009 and later on in 2013 a Master degree at the same department. During his studies, his research related to functioning of institutions of the European Union (EU), common EU policies, process of EU integration as well as political and economic aspects of the EU. His academic research also related to social entrepreneurship as an instrument of social policies. Currently he is working full-time as Regional Coordinator for Europe within the global project: Disability Rights Promotion International (DRPI) initiated by York University, Toronto, Canada aimed at development of innovative methodology of holistic monitoring of disability rights and implementation of UNCRPD. DRPI Regional Center for Europe for monitoring of rights of people with disabilities is hosted by Center for Society Orientation, disability oriented civil society organization based in Belgrade, Serbia.
What is your personal experience of disability?
As I’m person with mobility impairment, experiencing walking difficulties, I can say that my experience of disability varied in different stages of my life and different contexts. It means that living with disability from an early childhood represents a long way of personal development full of different challenges in every possible aspect: emotional and psychological, social, physical, etc. However, it is definitely obvious that the social context renders disability rather than impairment itself. For example, I had experienced more challenges in a school environment as a child due to inaccessibility or prejudices than I’m experiencing now when I sorted out my life circumstances according to my preferences and possibilities. In the end, I would also add that I have feeling that disability, being a consistent part of me, has changed me in a personal way and strongly influenced my perception of world and my goals and strivings, in a positive way, of course.
When did you first start your engagement with disability issues and why?
If we leave aside the fact that I was a passive member of Association of dystrophy since I was 10 and member of Association of students with disabilities during my course of studies, my real and meaningful engagement started quite late, only in 2011 when I applied and got the job within DRPI. Being just a member of some disabled people’s organisation sometimes is not especially engaging. Disabled peoples organisations in Serbia don’t have structured programs for youth and still they are functioning in a similar way like in communist times. Thus, the possibilities for active involvement and personal development for young people in such “traditional” disabled people’s organisations was very limited. Generally speaking, there are no programs within such organizations which are stimulating and meaningful to youth participation.
Who has influenced you the most, and how?
There are a number of people who are passionate and sincere in things that they are doing and goals that they’re pursuing, people who are not giving up and are fighting daily “battles” in their lives and overcoming challenges that they are facing and staying positive. If I had to choose one single person, perhaps it would be Prof. Dr Marcia Rioux co-director of Disability Rights Promotion International, teaching at department for Critical Disability Studies at York University, Toronto. She is extremely passionate about disability rights and inclusion of people with disabilities and totally tireless. In my opinion civil society and human rights movements tend to slip into “business” mode losing sincerity and forgetting the key values and goals. In such circumstances, she is true example how to do things with your heart and how to invest yourself and your soul in something that you believe
Is it difficult for you to find a new job?
To be honest, my current employment is my first full-time employment and I haven’t tried to change it so far. However, I did try before it several times including some traineeships and I found it hard at the same extent as for the overall youth population. We all know that countries are facing a structural economic crisis and that young people are the most stricken with it. Still, I believe that investing and upgrading yourselves will definitely bring some result, no matter what.
Describe your present employment and even your past employment experience?
As I said I’m working in civil society within global project Disability Rights Promotion International coordinating its activities in countries of Eastern Europe. We are working directly with local and national DPOs and individuals with disabilities building their capacities to take active roles in monitoring of their rights and monitoring the implementation of UNCRPD in their respective countries. At the moment we are implementing country monitoring projects in five countries: Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova and Macedonia and are about to start working in Armenia. We are in constant search for interested partners and new countries to get on board. It is definitely important to get evidence-based data of disability rights violations and even more important that people with disabilities themselves raised their voices and be the ones who will monitors and report on violations of their rights.
Before this job, I was working in a field of youth work and youth policies. I was volunteering for 6 years in youth organization from Serbia called Center for Youth and Social Development “RES POLIS” before I became its Board President in 2009. Non-formal education, youth work and youth participation remained my great passion and interest even nowadays.
Of which achievement from employment are you most proud?
I’m proud of program of mainstreaming antidiscrimination principles and disability rights into youth work in Serbia. I had the opportunity to design part of the programme which aimed to build competences of youth workers in Serbia to deliver more inclusive youth services and to include youth with fewer opportunities. The reactions were more than positive and it resulted in number of grass-root initiatives which came from young people towards social inclusion of youth from marginalized groups. It turned out that the effects of working on awareness raising on social inclusion with overall youth population might be incredible. Young people are really keen to know more about it and are responsive to it. It is only that they are lacking knowledge and proper education and guidance. Thus the cooperation between different civil society movements such as disability movement and youth movement or other human rights movements is crucial, yet is still lacking.
What is your vision for the labour market for disabled persons in your country at present and for the future?
It is very hard to predict since the overall economic prospects of Serbia are not so bright. The State is in the deep crisis and even some of the employment programs for stimulation of employment of people with disabilities but also young people are being cancelled which represents serious setback. Also the qualification structure among unemployed persons with disabilities is not satisfactory which prevents employers of employing more people with disabilities. Social entrepreneurship might be an answer but only at some extent. On the other hand, considering legal framework for social entrepreneurship that Serbia is about to adopt, I wouldn’t lay much hopes in it neither.
What advice would you give to young disabled persons?
To improve themselves constantly every day, in every possible aspect, to invest efforts in education both formal and non-formal, to be part of the mainstream and to use all programs which are on disposal to overall population of youth such as Erasmus +. It might be challenging to travel or even to live abroad but it is definitely empowering and life changing experiences. True barriers are set up only in our minds.