Entitled to wheelchair access


   Disabled access – or the lack of it – remains a major problem in Ukraine where public buildings often don’t even have ramps.  Between 500 and 1, 000 people in each regional centre are thus deprived of mobility.

The authorities generally claim lack of funding though it is a moot point whether in fact the money is lacking, or simply misspent, since the amounts quoted as being needed for putting in a ramp is exponentially higher than the amount a simple construction actually costs.  As lawyer Dmytro Zharyi can testify since he used his own money to have a ramp put in at the block in which he lives.  How long can you wait, effectively stuck, dangling in a State queue which scarcely moves? 

Just in Dnipropetrovsk there are around 200 people waiting for such a ramp, and it’s a real achievement if one person’s needs are met each year. 

Increasingly businesses etc are being obliged, including through amendments to legislation, to ensure access themselves.  The business wants to make money and the authorities have a lever – they can make obtaining and retaining a licence contingent on there being disabled access. 

Dmytro Zharyi decided to tackle these problems after a visit to the doctor, following which he tried to obtain the prescribed medicine from the chemist nearby.  Even private chemists are still within the healthcare system and so the mechanisms for control are that much greater.

What passed for a “ramp” was at best a way for rolling a pushchair up, but the angle basically corresponded to the stairs and there was no question of wheelchair access.

Since this was so clearly in breach of all regulations, Dmytro decided to stand up for his rights.  He assumed all could be resolved without the courts, and spoke first with the chemist’s management.  This proved fruitless and 6 months later he approached both the Chief Planning Department in Dnipropetrovsk and the Regional Inspectorate on the Quality of Medication asking them to look into the situation and take measures.  When they in turn did nothing, he was forced to turn to the court.  In his suit he appealed against the results of the assessment about the chemist, and demanded that the chemist’s licence be revoked. He provided an independent assessment which found that the chemist did not provide access for people with disabilities. The only ramp installed was not only in breach of architectural norms, but was dangerous.

Dmytro explains that according to a specific feature of the legislation in question, were his suit to be successful, this would close all the chemists of the entire chain.  He says that this involves over 100 chemists around the country.  He asked the court to demand to see the documents submitted by the firm in question to get a licence to prove that they had received it unlawfully.

Dmytro even had a visit from representatives of the chain. He presumes that they wanted to see whether this really was one man’s initiative, or provocation from their competitors.  And, of course, to get him off their back.

They didn’t succeed, though they may have had more luck with the court.  Certainly the evidence was all in the claimant’s favour.  At the end of the day there needed to be real disabled access and there wasn’t.  Yet the claim was rejected.

Next step the court of appeal.

The issue is too important and Dmytro Zharyi has no intention of giving up. 

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