The Union of Associations for Assistance to Persons with Intellectual Disabilities in AP Vojvodina was founded on 2 April 1967 in Novi Sad under the name “Society for Assistance to Persons with Intellectual Disabilities in AP Vojvodina”. Among its members at the inaugural meeting there were parents, experts and socio-political workers. The Union has changed its name several times, undergoing different development stages, from a medical to a social model of disability, from the concept of charity to the concept of human rights, but it has always recognized parents’ associations as partners in efforts to improve the position of people with intellectual disabilities.
By 1975, 11 municipal societies and two inter-municipal societies were founded in Vojvodina, and the original name Society for Assistance to Persons with Intellectual Disabilities in AP Vojvodina was changed to the Union of Associations for Assistance to Persons with Intellectual Disabilities in AP Vojvodina.
One of the most important activities of the Union since its foundation has been strengthening and interconnecting the existing and formation of new municipal organizations, thus in 2022 the Union of Associations for Assistance to Persons with Intellectual Disabilities in AP Vojvodina gathers 26 members, headed by Marko Kosutic, as its president.
At the very beginning, the Union focused its activities on highlighting the problems of persons with intellectual disabilities and on their protection, in terms of providing them education, medical and professional rehabilitation. In parallel, it delivered lectures and seminars for parents in order to strengthen their parental capacities, and the initiatives of the Union, as a basically parental association, are at the same time the expression of the actual needs of people with intellectual disabilities.
The role of the Union is also to familiarize local organizations and the general public with international models and examples of good practice based on the principles of inclusion. Today, the Union advocates for inclusive education, the exercise of the rights of persons with intellectual disabilities in all areas of social life, in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
In the last few years, the Union organized implementation of a series of trainings for the introduction of day care, child personal companion, personal assistant, supported housing, and respite for families of people with disabilities services, and 6 Union member associations provide 10 licensed social protection services.
With its long-term commitment and engagement towards improving the position of people with intellectual disabilities, the Union is an important social actor in reform processes. In all such efforts, the Union and local associations enjoy significant support provided by the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs – the Department for the Protection of Persons with Disabilities, which supports the implementation of the activities of the Union and local associations through competitions for the improvement of the position of persons with disabilities in the Republic of Serbia, and thus key results of the Union are the following:
professionalization and positioning of the Union (increasing Union’s visibility and strengthening its capacities; strengthening the capacities of member associations and improving financial sustainability), and
contributing to the creation of an accessible environment for persons with intellectual disabilities (increasing the visibility, recognition and respect for persons with intellectual disabilities and creating an accessible environment for exercising the rights of persons with intellectual disabilities), launching an initiative for the recognition of the cognitive accessibility issues.