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29.01.2013

Wheelchair Power!

   

With one major victory behind him, Dmytro Zhariy is now helping other people who come up against the appalling lack of wheelchair access in Ukraine to defend their rights.

Dmytro Zharyi, whose battle lasted over a year has no intention of giving up and as a lawyer is well-placed to advise others. 

As reported, in December the Dnipropetrovsk Court of Appeal ordered the State Medication Administration to cancel a pharmacist’s licence over the failure to provide proper wheelchair access.  In January the government ordered the Health Ministry and Ministry for Regional Development to draw up new conditions for licensing, these including proper ramps.  The Dnipropetrovsk Regional Medication Administration says that the new regulations should be in place by April. 

They must (if the instructions are adhered to) be unequivocal, well-considered and mandatory. What Dmytro fought against, first with the local authorities, then when nothing else helped, with the courts, were ramps erected to keep inspectors off their backs but which were totally useless to people in wheelchairs. In the case which finally prompted Dmytro’s legal battle, 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.

Shocking restrictions

The Deutsche Welle Ukrainian Service spoke with Anton Datsko, World Fencing Champion and Silver Medal –winner at the London Paralympics last year.  He has travelled a lot around Europe and says that each time he returns to Ukraine, he is shocked again over how limited wheelchair access is.  Although ramps have finally begun appearing at post offices, supermarkets and hospitals, they are still rather the exception. Yaroslav Hrybalsky, Coordinator of Barrier-Free Ukraine for the National Association of People with Disabilities, notes that although the legal requirements are in place, there is no liability for infringing building norms. He is convinced that law suits are one of the methods of influencing the situation.

Dmytro Zharyi admits that when he lodged his suit, he didn’t believe he would win.  He says that people have begun contacting him for advice on fighting for access.  He told Deutsche Welle that now businesses will understand that they can incur real penalties if they fail to provide wheelchair access.

There is still a long way to go, but Dmytro’s success has spurred others and created an excellent precedent.

New information reported here

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