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.
The joint work of various organizations
Over the past year, Stolin has gained fame as one of the most active cities under the campaign "Agenda 50", while the mini-project being implemented in the city attracts attention not only of the organizers, but also of members of the campaign from all over Belarus. The project "Equal to Equal" evaluated accessibility of different institutions of Stolin and of Stolin district. The result of the project will be an accessibility guide that already exists in the working version.
- Initially, we planned to examine 40 objects, but in the end we managed to examine twice as much. At the moment, we have examined about 80% of the planned number of objects and have produced a working version of the guide, says Mikhail Skrabeyka, coordinator of the project "Equal to Equal".
Mikhail Skrabeyka. Photo by the "EuroBelarus" Information Service.
Both non-governmental organizations and local authorities participated in the project. There are, among partners, Management of Labour, Employment and Social Protection of Population of the Stolin District Executive Committee, the Belarussian association of assistance to children and young people with disabilities, the Belarussian Association of Visually Handicapped, the district education department, as well as the initiative group of parents.
There have been developed cards-questionnaires with 5 questions for the research. Coordinators of the project were interested to know about a parking, an approach to the building, the entrance to the building, the interior and a toilet.
According to Mikhail Skrabeyka, government agencies reacted very positively to the research. Problems and misunderstandings arose with private institutions. They often asked, "Why? What for?”, and asked for money to rebuild the premises.
But there were also nice exceptions. In one of the stores, the director got so excited about the ideas of the barrier-free environment that he began testing the accessibility on his own. He got into the wheelchair and examined the store.
Presentation of the monitoring of accessibility.Photo by the "EuroBelarus" Information Service.
For the head of the Department of Management of Labour and Social Protection of the Population HalinaVarapaeva, "Equal to Equal" became the first project of civil society which she participates in.
- We faced a lot of anger and resentment; everybody says they have no money. We had to explain that we do not allocate money in this case. We tried to explain that the access to the premises is an interest of the very business’ owner, in the first place, so that people with disabilities could become their customers and come to buy flowers, clothing. We tried to put the owners in the place of a person with a disability. If the result of our work - a guide - will be used at least by five people, then I will consider it a great deal, stressed Halina.
Barrier-free environment in the priority
Now, barrier-free environment is in the priority during construction works in Stolin district. Halina Varapaeva says the new facilities are required to be put in commission in the respective state. However, despite this often houses are rent out with insufficient accessibility. Often happens that there is a ramp, but people can not use it.
Halina Piatrouna went further and organized the monitoring of objects not only in Stolin, but also in Stolin district. The results are not very encouraging: from all the examined objects only 16% are fully accessible, 29% are partially accessible and more than a half of the buildings are inaccessible - 54.5%.
Besides the accessible objects in Stolin, there is one traffic light with sound and four specialized buses.
According to Uladzimir Gryb from the Center of Support for young people with disabilities, the situation with the accessibility in Stolin has rather significantly changed over the last decade.
At the session, Deputy Director of the Office on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities MikhailMatskevich noted that one should speak about accessibility not only for people in wheelchairs, but also for people with other categories of disability: people with visual, hearing impairments. Also physically impaired persons are retired people and mothers with baby carriages, and temporarily injured people.
Mikhail Matskevich. Photo by the "EuroBelarus" Information Service.
Halina Varapaeva says such a project is the first one in the whole Brest region. Due to this, the project has attracted a lot of attention from the local authorities. The project already has the first achievements. So, around a local store "Chlebasol" a special parking for people with disabilities was equipped after the monitoring, and a disability-free entrance to the bank was made.
Through the guide - to the inclusive tourism
However, the purpose of the guide is not only to fix the state of the barrier-free environment in Stolin district, but also to contribute to the development of inclusive tourism.
As a whole, there are 5000 persons with disabilities registered in Stolin district, or about 7% of the total population of the district. The development of accessibility of the district by the businesses is not an act of mercy, it is a rational step, a way to get new clients.
- If we make Stolin district the first accessible district in Belarus, a lot of people will come just to see how this all has been implemented, says Mikhail Skrabeyka. So far the situation does not look very inspiring. For example, in the forest reserve "Almanskija baloty” (“Almanski swamp") there is a hiking trail, but it is inaccessible for a person who uses a wheelchair.
The interested public will be able to rate the guide very soon - in August. The electronic version of the guide will be distributed via the project page in Facebook, as well as on the websites of TSSC and the Executive Committee.
Photo by the "EuroBelarus" Information Service.
Organizers will hand out for free almost two hundred printed guides. These will be available in all the institutions that have been examined, as well as in a local architectural office, the Executive Committee, Territorial social services center and in other stakeholder structures. Thus, Stolin will make another step on the road towards accessibility.
The material was prepared in the framework of the international project "Rights of People with Disabilities: agenda for Belarus (Agenda 50)".