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Ukraine without barriers: On facilities for people with disabilities

Author : Denys Borysenko

Ukraine should become a comfortable country. And to make it happen, we need to develop and implement common standards of inclusive space
11:31, 19 March 2018

Read the original text at 112.ua.

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We all have special needs. It is hard to understand when you travel by yourself as you can adjust more quickly to the accommodations. But when you take your wife, kids, and numerous suitcases to the Kyiv railway station, it is a real challenge. I had to carry our suitcases first, then take the children, and then the strollers. One person just cannot cope with this.

Then I have learned that there is an elevator, which hypothetically could lift people and deliver their luggage to the platforms. I say hypothetically because you cannot just press the button and enter it. The elevator is closed, and it will be opened only if you prove that you really need it.

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Many Ukrainians mistakenly believe that lifts, ramps and other amenities are only needed by people in wheelchairs. Inclusion, barrier-free space - it is not about me. But this is not true. A pregnant woman, a mom with a stroller, elderly people, an athlete with a bicycle, a family with a large amount of luggage, a man with a broken leg - you or your relatives might be in their place tomorrow. And then you will notice that wherever you go in Ukraine - to the other end of the country or to a neighboring store – your trip turns into one big problem.

The worst thing is that Ukrainians perceive the lack of facilities for people with additional needs as something normal. They simply do not represent what could be somehow different! We have accustomed to corruption and to the corrupted officials.

Our parents' generation lived behind the "Iron Curtain" and could not compare the urban infrastructure of Kyiv and Zurich or London. Modern Ukrainians can go abroad and see how that barrier-free space looks like.

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But even these people who travel abroad do not believe that this could ever appear in Ukraine! We perceive the inconvenience of the urban infrastructure, carelessness to people with special needs as a norm, as something inevitable, like the weather.

But inclusion is not a climate! Ramps, changing tables, barrier-free transfers are not luxury, but just a part of usual life. This is a logical step in the development of civilization, as an invention of the wheel or mobile communication. And in this respect, Ukraine is really far from civilization.

We have absorbed the Soviet attitude towards a person. Do you need it more than everyone else? Are you the cleverest here? You are young, walk on foot! People with the Soviet past remember this attitude, which could be linked to one simple rule: do not stick your head out! A person with a disability should stay at home. If you are a mother with a toddler, you should stay at home too.

In my constituency, there is a man that lost both of his legs, and he uses a wheelchair. In his village Nemeshaevo near Kyiv, he almost cannot move without the help of relatives or friends. It is just unbelievable, isn’t it!

Unfortunately, our officials refer to the European way of Ukraine exclusively during their speeches from the rostrum. And they do not notice that while this path is full of impassable barriers.

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We cannot say that we do not have ramps or low-floor buses. They exist, but often only formally. Again, this is our Soviet legacy: the official opening, cutting the ribbon, and then everyone forgets about it. Luckily, they do not forget to “cut” the budget of this inclusive project.

Nobody thinks about whether it is convenient to use this ramp or bus, on paper everything is beautiful, the plan is over-fulfilled. And in reality the ramp rests against the wall, the driver of the low-floor bus does not come close to a curb, and the elevator works "after providing special certificates from the housing office."

Public transport is a real headache. I have bought a car after my wife gave birth to our children. Maybe, you could deal with one child, but with two or more – it is just impossible. Even a taxi will not be an option: the taxi services in Ukraine usually have no car seats.

What do I suggest - as a citizen and as a deputy? As a citizen, I urge Ukrainians to be active. There are joint territorial communities, there are communities of co-owners of houses - they should become the main conductors of changes in the country. For example, we have put a fence around the children's swings to avoid injuries at my multi-story house in Irpin.

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If you cannot do it yourself, apply to the local authorities. The officials themselves will not do something anything, you need to “activate” them. For example, my public reception center in Nemeshaevo is always open for new propositions concerning the infrastructure development.

As a deputy and as a member of the UKROP party, I want to develop and adopt common standards of inclusiveness at the state level. Each large commercial company has a brand book, where all the principles of action are clearly stated. Why do not we do the same for our state?

Now everyone builds the ramps, as he likes to. But there must be an instruction, a standardized norm throughout the country.

When you come to Western Europe, you see the signs: here is an elevator, there is a ramp, there is a WC. These signs are simple, understandable, and, most importantly, identical in all cities. Man, getting from Berlin to Bonn does not worry that he would not understand something.

Now we talk a lot about the national idea, about the unity of the people. A comfortable country is our idea. Try to smile to the others instead of finding the reasons to hate them.

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