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Rights of hard of hearing persons before Strasbourg Court

The HFHR assists Małgorzata Stefaniak in her case concerning medical care in penitentiary facilities. Ms Stefaniak is an inmate suffering from both-side hearing loss. Despite her impairment, prison authorities failed to provide her with a hearing aid, which would enable the woman to normally function in the prison setting.

In consequence, Ms Stefaniak submitted an application to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, arguing that the refusal to provide her with a hearing aid constitutes a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits inhuman and degrading treatment. The applicant emphasised that her condition impairs her everyday life and ability to interact with others. Despite requests directed to the prison administration, since December 2010 she has been continually deprived of access to a hearing aid, thus being forced to rely on the help of other inmates.

“It is one of many cases about the health care in Polish prisons. Yet the case of Małgorzata Stefaniak touches upon an important issue, namely the rights of deaf and hearing-impaired persons”, says Irmina Pacho, applicant’s attorney in the proceedings before the ECtHR.

The judgment expected in this case may be a landmark decision providing that the Strasbourg Court unequivocally designates the conditions of serving custodial sentences which the state is obliged to ensure for the deaf and hearing-impaired.

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