What is being done to safeguard the rights of the disabled?
On International Day for Disabled People, Radio Svoboda looked into facilities to enable those in wheelchairs to enjoy a full life.
One in eighteen Ukrainians has impaired mobility. In Ukrainian there are few of those things which facilitate mobility: ramps, lifts and public toilets with wheelchair access, etc. People with disabilities have considerable difficulty finding work, and getting there.
In Lviv there are 44 thousand people with impaired mobility, while overall in the Lviv region there are more than 100 thousand. Although local officials talk a lot about traffic lights with audible signals, transport with wheelchair access, as well as lifts and ramps, even new buildings are still handed over for use with disregard for the needs of people in wheelchairs. However the new hotels being built for Euro 2012 must be full accessible for people with disabilities and this UEFA requirement is being strictly observed.
Yaroslav Hrybalsky, a Deputy on the Lviv Regional Council, is in a wheelchair and says that moving around the city is pure torture since even at pedestrian crossings the pavements are too high. There are only 4 buses in the region which you get on in a wheelchair. Mr Hrybalsky does not understand how various State institutions approve construction in breach of the law. He says that the legislation is fine, only the planners design buildings without wheelchair access and these get passed.
In Rivne, however, the situation is improving for people with disabilities. According to Valentina Odarchenko, the Radio Svoboda correspondent there, ramps and lifts are becoming a normal feature in social institutions and in supermarkets.
“Quite recently, as part of a charitable action “The Disabled and the Railways”, a number of new features were introduced also by railway workers. They made platforms of the right height, special lines at the end of the platform in order to know where a particular carriage should stop. Special carriages have appeared for people in wheelchairs and free places for the disabled in the fee-charging waiting halls. For mobile groups have also been created whose duties include assisting people with disabilities. However there are still no such comforts at the big railway station Zdolbuniv and at the Rivne bus station. Furthermore, this year for the first time the region did not receive a single car for people with disabilities.
Civic organizations have drawn up a number of proposals concerning social legislation which would significantly simplify not only the life of the disabled and their families, but also the work of the social services. However the Head of the Union of Parents of Children with Illnesses of the Central Nervous System, Tetyana Kononchuk says that parliamentarians have not yet got around to considering a whole range of major proposals.
Hanna from Kyiv has been in a wheelchair, following a car accident, for 28 years. She seldom leaves her home and courtyard, but says that if there were ramps and lifts in public places she would feel much freer. “I know a single city in Ukraine – Saky, where everything is correctly set up for people with disabilities. You feel like an independent person there. You went by yourself, did everything that you needed”.
In other countries people with impaired mobility feel much freer than in Ukraine and don’t have to sit at home, awaiting help from their relatives.
In Ukraine State assistance for people with impaired mobility is on average 600-700 UAH a month. Valery Sushkevych, Head of the Parliamentary Committee on Pensioners’, Veterans’ and Disabled Affairs, believes there is a need for greater social protection for the disabled.
In order to ensure that disabled people have more chance of finding work, there need to be better incentives for employers, Olena Ivanova, Head of a Development Programme for the UN, ILO and State Employment Centre. “According to legislation, employers have to employ 4% of staff with disabilities. Those who do not, are not entitled to receive subsidies for the creation of a special job. And it ends up that the first person with disabilities arrives and is told that they have to first employ, say, four. And then they’ll give us money to create a special job, ramp, special toilet”. It is because of these legislative norms, that Olena Ivanova’s programme is proposing to remove some restrictions. Then employers will be more motivated to employ disabled people, and the employers’ expenditure in setting up such work will be covered.
By 2011, the Fund for Social Assistance for the Disabled is planning to create 12 thousand new jobs. According to figures from the Ministry of Employment and Social Policy, last year the Fund found work for 3,000 people with disabilities.
Abridged from a text at www.radiosvoboda.org