At a joint meeting scheduled for Tuesday, the Social Affairs and National Defence Committees of the Riigikogu are set to discuss opportunities for including people with disabilities in Estonia's national defence. Ten young individuals with disabilities have already indicated that they wish to volunteer for service in the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF), and according to Commander of the EDF Maj. Gen. Martin Herem, they may be able to enter service as soon as this year.
Last summer, MP Jüri Jaanson (Reform), a two-time Olympic silver medalist and world champion rower, appealed to the EDF, stating that among those with special needs are those who would very much like to contribute to Estonia's national defence and complete conscription training, reported ETV news broadcast Aktuaalne kaamera.
"People with disabilities need opportunities to apply themselves just like anyone else," said Mr Jaanson, a member of the Social Affairs Committee. "Another crucial aspect is the fact that national defence is ultimately all of our responsibility, just as national security is."
According to the MP, those who want to but currently cannot participate in the country's national defence are concerned.
"I myself have also been rejected from the EDF, from serving in the EDF specifically because I have a disability and based on a medical committee decision was unfit for service," he explained.
The Social Affairs and National Defence Committees will discuss on Tuesday a pilot project under which the EDF would accept volunteers with disabilities into service in suitable positions on a test run basis.
Commander: IT, mechanic skills not hampered by disabilities
Maj. Gen. Herem said that if someone wants it and has special skills that the EDF would need in wartime, efforts will be made to provide them with the opportunity to serve conscription and learn the skills necessary for their wartime posts.
"If we are speaking first and foremost of mobility or hearing impairments, then the very first things that come to mind are all kinds of IT skills, but also mechanics, for example," he highlighted.
According to the commander, the first ten volunteers include IT specialists, mechanics and historians. It will be up to the EDF to determine the most suitable means for these individuals to complete conscription training.
"An IT or communications specialist does not necessarily have to be able to jump 1.3m and run at a certain speed, but they will definitely receive firearms training and training regarding EDF structure and living arrangements," he continued. "They will definitely learn all of this in order to ensure that they know how the EDF functions and what their role in the bigger machine is."
Upper secondary school student Makar Medvedev wants to first attend university, but has considered conscription service as well. He has congenital achromatopsia, also known as colourblindness, but he is involved in sport diving and believes that he could someday be of service to the Estonian Navy.
"Because I think that this is our primary skill — what we have to do for our country," he explained.
According to Maj. Gen. Herem, the first volunteers with disabilities may be able to enter conscription service as soon as this July or October.
Editor: Aili Vahtla