Sunday 26 May 2019 | 13:54

“If a person cannot leave the apartment, he or she does not need an accessible Opera House”

16.04.2019  |  Society   |  Yauheniya Burshtyn, EuroBelarus,  
“If a person cannot leave the apartment, he or she does not need an accessible Opera House” Photo of the "EuroBelarus" information service

In Stoubcy, they talked about universal design and conducted pilot monitoring of two urban sites accessibility.

We all need accessible environment.

People with disabilities, elderly people, cyclists, pregnant women and people with prams, with umbrellas, people in shopping and on heels; even just tired and scattered people - many of us can be attributed to at least one of these categories. Any of these states creates for us physical challenges and difficulties for the movement. It is good thus when the space is organized in such a way that it is possible to walk in the streets as safely as possible and in any condition— then injuries can be avoided or at least minimized. But, as practice shows, the Belarusian cities in this regard are still far from ideal.

Director of the Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Siarhei Drazdouski during the pilot monitoring of the sports and recreation complex in Stoubcy. Photo of the "EuroBelarus" information service.

To get closer to it, there’s need to create a barrier-free environment. Even better is to build accessible buildings and structures from the very beginning, being guided by the design principles of universal design and by introducing smart devices. The barrier-free environment ensures accessibility of facilities for certain categories of people while universal design provides this accessibility for all people without the need to adapt it to different groups’ features. The head of the department “Architecture of residential and public buildings”, candidate of architecture, associate professor of Belarusian National Technical University Natalya Lazouskaya spoke on this issue during a seminar on accessible environment in Stoubtsy. The seminar was held in the framework of the campaign “Agenda 50”, aimed at the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on the local level, adopted by Belarus. The seminar was attended by representatives of the Stoubtsy-based institutions of health, culture, education, social services, by architects, as well as by their colleagues from six areas of Belarus. Let’s recall, Stoubtsy joined the campaign later than the other pilot cities, but were the first to designed and created their local agenda to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities in their town.

Natalya Lazouskaya. Photo of the "EuroBelarus" information service

The basic principles of accessible environment are universality, safety, flexibility, continuity.

Everything being designed should be not only simple and convenient to use, but also as comprehensible as possible. This concerns presenting the information on various city facilities in different formats: visual, tactile, auditory one. After all, a person with visual impairment will not be able to read a sign on an institution doors. Therefore, ideally, all these methods of presenting information should be present altogether.

The seminar participants. Photo of the "EuroBelarus" information service

Why the continuity is of importance, Natalya Lazouskaya explained with a simple example. The first object that was made available in Minsk was the Opera Theater. But if a person cannot leave the apartment, because he/she encounters various obstacles on the way, there’s no need the accessible Opera Theater.

Photo of the "EuroBelarus" information service

Social taxi is not an ideal, but the compensation

Tatsiyana Mastyka and Kirill Sinyutich from the Belarusian Union of Transport Workers have worked at the improvement of the urban space. They are convinced that the universal design and smart devices are necessary for at least 10 - 30% of people, and improve life for 100% of the population.

Tatsiyana Mastyka and Kirill Sinyutich are speaking out. Photo of the "EuroBelarus" information service

The young people have studied the phenomenon of a social taxi in Belarus, and they shared some of their observations with the seminar participants. A social taxi should be regarded as a compensation measure by the state, but by no means as an ideal way to move. Providing this service does not cancel or reduce the rights of people with disabilities to become passengers of public transport.

Photo of the "EuroBelarus" information service

The ideal social taxi should be available to everybody, without exception, including by the price, as well as not limited in time and route. However, this service looks a little different in Belarus. The general approach to the organization of this type of transport in the country does not exist. Everything is done on the basis of the resources available to each region. As a rule, the service is provided by the Territorial Social Services’ Centers, there are benefits, social tariffs, as well as free transportation services for some categories of the population. The social taxi in Belarus is characterized by pre-ordering a service (usually from a day to three), limited list of its recipients (residents of a particular city or area), as well as by travel objectives (for example, transportation to a pharmacy or clinic) and a fixed time of the service provision.

Kirill Sinyutich explains that our social taxi really is not a taxi at all. After all, a taxi envisages ordering a service at any time of the day, while in Minsk, for example, it must be ordered at least one day in advance. Therefore, in the capital, this service has officially received a more correct title - social service.

Kirill Sinyutich. Photo of the "EuroBelarus" information service

An alternative to social taxis in small towns can be both regular taxi services and auto volunteers - ordinary car owners who would give a ride for people with disabilities to the places they need. The first method is used in Navapolatsk, the second one - in the children's village in Baraulyany near Minsk.

How to improve transport

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, first of all, speaks about equality in all spheres of life. Therefore, the issue of accessible transport should not be limited to social taxis. Ideally, all public transport should be convenient for use, including people with limited mobility.

Tatyana Mostyka identifies 10 principles of sustainable urban transport and notes that at least 4 of them can be implemented in any Belarusian city.

Tatsiyana Mastyka. Photo of the "EuroBelarus" information service

1. Optimization of the road network and its use. These are administrative measures that can be used to make transportation more convenient. For example, it is possible to distribute low-floor transport along routes most often used by people with limited mobility. Such a principle, for example, was introduced in Navapolatsk. It cost almost nothing to the city, while it became much more convenient for the residents.

2. Awareness. Even with good organization, people often simply do not know about the transport innovations. The scale of the problem may be different: in large cities it may consist in incorrect displaying the transport schedule in a mobile application, and in smaller localities a bus schedule at the bus stops may be absent at all.

3. Comprehensive approach to problem solving. In organizing accessible routes it is important to take into consideration their integration into the transport network and to assess the effectiveness of their work. After all, a low-floor bus is of little use if the curb at the bus stop does not match the height of the bus’s platform.

4. Implementation of transit improvements. It is about creating special lanes for public transport, installing traffic lights, etc. With the help of these measures it is possible to improve the situation with movement in a city, including using different types of transport. A person should have the possibility to easily choose the type of transport by which he/she wants to move, regardless of the state of health.

Photo of the "EuroBelarus" information service

According to Tatsiyana Mastyka, problems often arise even if all the conditions of accessibility of transport are observed, and the reason for this is the human factor. For example, bus drivers who should help people with disabilities get into transport do not always do that. But so far the main problem is the lack of accessible transport in most Belarusian cities.

"Ramp is evil"

The seminar program included an introduction of the participants with a toolkit for assessing the accessibility of urban facilities. Natalya Lazouskaya spoke out how to monitor the accessibility of objects and what should be the parameters of the barrier-free environment components.

Questionnaire of the accessibility of objects’ monitoring. Photo of the "EuroBelarus" information service

According to the expert, the most common mistakes in the design of buildings are ubiquitous stairs, improper parking for people with disabilities, and high-gradient ramps. In general, there are a lot of problems with ramps: inconsistency with the norms of length, width, slippery surface, absence or incorrect arrangement of the sides, irregular shape of the handrails ... Therefore, Natalya Lazouskaya keeps arguing that often a ramp is even more evil than stairs.

Measurement of the diameter of the ramp handrail. Photo of the "EuroBelarus" information service

Tactile and color designations of the urban environment, as well as internal arrangement of buildings, often leave much to be desired.

Deputy Director of the Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Mikhail Matskevich, is measuring the height of steps. Photo of the "EuroBelarus" information service

However, the seminar participants were able to work out all these nuances in practice. Divided into two groups, they conducted pilot monitoring of two city facilities: a polyclinic and a physical culture and health center, under the direction of Natalya Lazouskaya and Siarhei Drazdouski, director of the Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Stoubtsy physical culture and health center. Photo of the "EuroBelarus" information service

Groups of people walking around buildings with roulettes and questionnaires caused considerable surprise on the faces of Stoubtsy residents. However, the participants themselves felt no less surprise when they took measurements of building elements and compared them with the standard indicators. The width and height of the steps, the colour and tactile designations, the height and diameter of the handrails, the thresholds - much of what had seemed correct did not correspond to the norms in reality.

The physical culture and health center monitoring. Photo of the "EuroBelarus" information service

Does the ramp meet the standards? Photo of the "EuroBelarus" information service

Measure ramp width. Photo of the "EuroBelarus" information service

Photo of the "EuroBelarus" information service

It remains to be added only one thing. According to the calculations of American researchers, if you rebuild an existing building in order to ensure its accessibility, then the cost of such a project could amount 50% of the cost of the entire building. However, if everything is taken into account at the design stage, the object budget will increase by a maximum of 10%. So why not build accessible buildings from the very beginning?

***

The material was prepared in the framework of the international project "Rights of People with Disabilities: agenda for Belarus (Agenda 50)". 

The campaign "Agenda 50" is being implemented with the support of the European Union in partnership with the Fundacja TUS (Poland)and the PA "European House" (Denmark)Office for the Rights of People with DisabilitiesInternational Consortium "EuroBelarus" and Center for European Transformation participate in the campaign implementation in Belarus.

Other news section «Society»

Mikhail Matskevich: How to create a local agenda and make it a problem solving tool
Mikhail Matskevich: How to create a local agenda and make it a problem solving tool
To achieve changes, you need to be interested in them and stop pinning all hopes on the state.
“If a person cannot leave the apartment, he or she does not need an accessible Opera House”
“If a person cannot leave the apartment, he or she does not need an accessible Opera House”
In Stoubcy, they talked about universal design and conducted pilot monitoring of two urban sites accessibility.
Local agenda in Valożyn: mission accomplished
Local agenda in Valożyn: mission accomplished
"Specificity is different, but the priority is general." In Valożyn, a local strategy for the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was signed.
How Ščučyn was proceeding towards the solution of problems of people with disabilities
How Ščučyn was proceeding towards the solution of problems of people with disabilities
The campaign "Agenda 50" was summed up in Ščučyn, and a local action plan for the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was signed there.
A program to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities was designed in Stolin
A program to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities was designed in Stolin
The regional center has become the second city in Belarus where the local plan for the implementation of the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was signed.
“Agenda 50” in Belarus: from strategies to implementation
“Agenda 50” in Belarus: from strategies to implementation
Representatives of the campaign “Agenda 50” from five pilot cities discussed achievements in creating local agendas for implementing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
In Stoubcy, a local action plan for the implementation of the Convention was signed
In Stoubcy, a local action plan for the implementation of the Convention was signed
It is noteworthy that out of the five pilot cities, Stoubcy was the last to join the campaign “Agenda 50”, but the first one to complete the preparation of the local agenda.
The monitoring of accessibility was presented in Stolin
The monitoring of accessibility was presented in Stolin
On May 28, the city hosted a presentation of the results of the project "Equal to Equal" which was dedicated to monitoring the barrier-free environment in the city.
“They think if the legs don’t function, neither functions the head.”
“They think if the legs don’t function, neither functions the head.”
In Babruysk, wheelchair users are fighting discrimination.
The real work of the Convention depends on all interested communities and organizations
The real work of the Convention depends on all interested communities and organizations
What results has the campaign "Agenda 50" given, what helps to implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the regions?
The Convention is a fight against fears, barriers and stigmata
The Convention is a fight against fears, barriers and stigmata
Experts in Valožyn have determined that the quality of people’s life depends on their awareness.
The Convention should become a "living tool”, rather than remaining just an ordinary document
The Convention should become a "living tool”, rather than remaining just an ordinary document
On March 3, members of the campaign "Agenda 50" from different Belarusian cities met in Minsk. The campaign is aimed at the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The main thing is one’s personal motivation for full active life (PHOTOS)
The main thing is one’s personal motivation for full active life (PHOTOS)
There are being implemented three projects under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities campaign in the city of Babruysk.
One man does not make a team, but united we are able to do a lot
One man does not make a team, but united we are able to do a lot
In Ščučyn, people with disabilities learned to be leaders and to advocate their interests.
Barrier-free environment – it is not a ramp, but a means of independence (PHOTOS)
Barrier-free environment – it is not a ramp, but a means of independence (PHOTOS)
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.
Polish experts: We say “equality” and you say “inclusion”
Polish experts: We say “equality” and you say “inclusion”
Will creation of local agendas be an effective tool in ensuring rights of persons with disabilities in Belarus, just as it was in Poland?
“It is impossible to talk about persons with disabilities separately from the rest of the country”
“It is impossible to talk about persons with disabilities separately from the rest of the country”
The understanding that all people have equal rights has been the basis for social changes, including those related to disability issues, in Poland.
Andrei Yahorau: Everything depends on people in the regions
Andrei Yahorau: Everything depends on people in the regions
A social project "Equal to Equal" has been launched in Stolin district under the campaign "Agenda 50".
“Agenda 50": the problems can be solved only by solidarity and equal treatment
“Agenda 50": the problems can be solved only by solidarity and equal treatment
Five Belarusian cities are open to the campaign launched there to translate into practice the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Statement of the BNP in connection with the prosecution of the Belarusan independent trade unions
Statement of the BNP in connection with the prosecution of the Belarusan independent trade unions
The Belarusan National Platform of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum issued a statement in connection with the criminal prosecution of the leaders of the Belarusan independent trade unions.
Gintautas Mažeikis: The relation of political field and arena in the framework of information war

In his report, philosopher Gintautas Mažeikis discusses several concepts that have been a part of the European social and philosophical thought for quite a time.

"Vilnius Consultations": Key points and recommendations on the future of EU Eastern Partnership

On September 11, the inaugural „Vilnius Consultations“ conference was organized by Vilnius Institute for Policy Analysis and Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Shhh! Belarus Wants You to Think It’s Turning Over a New Leaf

Minsk’s muddled media clampdown could jeopardize warming of relations with the West.

Mikhail Matskevich: How to create a local agenda and make it a problem solving tool

To achieve changes, you need to be interested in them and stop pinning all hopes on the state.