Sunday 21 January 2018 | 09:13

Barrier-free environment – it is not a ramp, but a means of independence (PHOTOS)

21.12.2017  |  Society   |  Yauheniya Burshtyn, EuroBelarus,  
Barrier-free environment – it is not a ramp, but a means of independence (PHOTOS) Stolin, parking. Photo by "EuroBelarus" information service

In Stolin, social organizations and local authorities are implementing a project aimed at independent living of persons with disabilities, and creating local agenda for the district.

It was on December, 3 that the International Day of Persons with Disabilities was celebrated worldwide. The goal is to promote the rights of people with disabilities in all spheres of public life, as well as to attract public attention to the problems of people with disabilities. More than two years ago Belarus signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (this step took to our country perfect eight years), thereby committing itself to ensure and expand these rights. For more successful implementation of the Convention the campaign "Agenda 50" has been launched in Belarus. It is to create local agendas to address specific issues in the field of disability in regions.

The first project in the framework of the campaign was the one "Equal to the Equal", funded by the European Union. It was launched in a town of Stolin, in Brest region. "EuroBelarus" information service visited the town to see how the implementation of the project is proceeding.

Stolin, though being located in the depths of Palessie, can hardly be named backwoods. Paved streets, bright, neatly painted buildings, cleanness and neatness - that is what marks the eye from the very first sight. And more, all socially significant buildings in a center of the town are adapted for the access of people with disabilities: entrances are equipped with ramps, there are bright yellow labels for the visually impaired people on stairs, railings and doors. All this will contribute to the creation of a guide of accessibility to the town for people with disabilities, provided for by the project, and there has even taken place the first stage of the town facilities monitoring.

Entrance to the Direction of labour, employment and social protection of the Stolin District Executive Committee. Photo by "EuroBelarus" information service.

Entrances to the central pharmacy (in the photo), a cinema and a department store are also equipped with convenient ramps and have labels for people with impaired vision. Photo by "EuroBelarus" information service.

Accessible entrance to the Stolin town park: there is a ladder in the center, and a ramp on the side. Photo by "EuroBelarus" information service.

The project "Equal to the Equal" is also notable for the fact that for its realization there united even seven social organizations and public institutions: District Public Association "Centre for Support of Young People with Disabilities", district organization "Belarus Red Cross Society", the primary organization of PA "Belarusian Association of Assistance to Children and Young People with Disabilities", district organization PA "BelTIZ", district centre of Correction and Development Training and Rehabilitation, the town Executive Committee and an initiative group of parents with disabled children.

- Representatives of these organizations did not just put their signatures as partners; they designed and developed each event of the project, draws attention Mikhail Skrabeyka, chairman of Centre for Support of Young People with Disabilities.

Mikhail Skrabeyka, Photo by "EuroBelarus" information service.

He stresses that a good start of the project did take place due to the support of local authorities who turned out to ensure quite a fruitful cooperation in the field of disability. It is known that in order to succeed it is important to have a good foundation, well, there was in case with Stolin. The first monitoring of barrier-free environment began there about four years ago. Sometimes it turned out that ramps, for example, at institutions’ entrances did not meet the standards - and managers of these institutions had to correct the inconveniences.

As for now, there are seminars and round tables being held where the experience with the Stolin activists is shared by their colleagues from different countries (Poland, Latvia, Ukraine), events are planned with the participation of architects and other experts. Shortly, a training will be held for drivers of persons with disabilities in low-floor buses with ramps, which the town bus fleet is equipped with. After the New Year, there will begin the full-fledged monitoring of urban facilities with the aim to release a manual on a barrier-free environment by this summer.

- Our global goal is to ensure the independent living of people with disabilities. And not only independent living in an apartment, but the possibility to have equal access to all the town services. Barrier-free environment is not just a ramp. This means that people should have possibility to go shopping independently, go to the cinema, visit restaurants, be competitive in the labour market. We do not have disability groups for impaired people in our country, no disability group prohibits labour, but this limits it, emphasizes Mikhail Skrabeyka.

Georgy PyshnyakPhoto by "EuroBelarus" information service.

- I hope that the monitoring that is to be held in January will bear its fruit, and the necessary barrier-free environment will be created for the visually impaired people in places they need to visit - pharmacy, hospitals, railway station, shares his expectations chairman of Stolin district organization of the PA "BelTIZ" Georgy Pyshnyak. I have repeatedly written appeals, and, as a result, there appeared yellow labels for people with impaired vision at the entrances to many institutions - previously, healthy people did not even know what these circles were for. Therefore, there is a good start.

Head of the Department of Social Support of the Direction of labour, employment and social protection of Stolin District Executive Committee Galina Varapaeva said that there are ​​about five thousand people with disabilities in the district. According to her, the town should create a centre of labour rehabilitation for them.

- People with disabilities do not want to sit in a separated space and look in the window. They want to be like everyone else. But in order to understand this you have to live out this situation, says Galina Petrovna, who have had her own experience of taking care of her mother with disability.

- As a representative of the education system, I see the need for ergotherapy physicians in our district, said, in her turn, director of Regional Centre for Correction and Development Training and Rehabilitation Ina Shalamitskaya. We have only psychologists and speech therapists, so we need here ergotherapy physicians, as well.

According to her, there live 571 children with special needs in Stolin district. Therefore, Ina Alekseevna wishes that all the cities and towns were as convenient and accessible for parents with disabled children as can be.

In one of the offices in Stolin district Centre of Correction and Development Training and Rehabilitation. Photo by "EuroBelarus" information service.

The Stolin district Centre of Correction and Development Training and Rehabilitation participates in the republican contest for the best special education institutions, and though the final will take place in a few weeks, the centre has already entered into the top three among the 98 centres across the country. Now there are two classes and one preschool group for children with disabilities who live in equal number in neighboring with Stolin settlements of Rechitsa and Alshany, a well-known all over the country "cucumber" village. In all there study 42 children. Special buses transport them in classes every day from all over the district. The children’ staying in classes enables their parents to work and do housework.

Rechytsa. Entrance to the building where classrooms for special children are located. Photo by "EuroBelarus" information service.

A classroom for children with special needs in Rechytsa. Photo by "EuroBelarus" information service.

- From my own experience, and in comparison with other regions, I would like to say that we have done a lot in the district. The fact that we, both social and public organizations, speak with each other at one round table, that's already very good, believes Ina Shalamitskaya.

Malvina Vydrytskaya, creator and director of social enterprise "Road to Life" in Stolin has dealt with the issue of disability for 20 years. Her business is not involved in the project, but the woman can’t stay away from the topic.

- Everything has changed for the time passed, but it’s been changing too slowly. Perhaps, due to our country’s signing of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the case will speed up, hopes Malvina Kuzminichna.

It was her who pioneered the Stolin primary organization of Belarusian Association of Assistance to Disabled Children and Young People, and she recalls that in Stolin groups were created in kindergarten for special children, but these closed soon afterwards, as there were no funds for their maintenance. Now the situation is quite different, as evidenced by the activities of Stolin-based Centre of Correction and Development Training and Rehabilitation.

- I think everything that happens is for the better. I have a motto: the road is made by walking. So if we at least move in small steps, we’ll manage to do everything, believes Malvina Vydrytskaya.

Malvina Vydrytskaya, Photo by "EuroBelarus" information service.

Also, Mikhail Skrabeyka always keeps in mind the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. He notes the importance of creating local agendas for their implementation.

- We want to create our own development agenda for the region in the field of disability for the period of five years, starting from education to employment, says the interlocutor. After the workshop with our Polish colleagues, organized by the Office on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, we gradually began to develop the agenda. After all, a good project is not the one we held and forgot about. We want our project to become the start. Though it is small now, it opens up great prospects.

***

This article was created within the framework of “Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Agenda for Belarus (Agenda 50)” international project.

“Agenda 50” campaign is implemented with the support of the European Union and in partnership with TUS Foundation (Poland) and “European House” (Denmark). Office for the Rights of Persons with DisabilitiesInternational Consortium “EuroBelarus” and Centre for European Transformation participate in the implementation of the campaign in Belarus.

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