Report Findings Show Russia’s Disabled Still ‘Face an Uphill Battle’
According to the report, critical public facilities in Russia are still largely off limits for handicapped people.
Published: September 18, 2013 (Issue # 1778)
MOSCOW — With the upcoming Paralympic Games in Sochi set to laud disabled athletes for their accomplishments, ordinary members of Russia’s disabled population are still “facing an uphill battle” every day due to a lack of proper infrastructure and general discrimination, Human Rights Watch said in a report released last Wednesday.
The 118-page report, titled “Barriers Everywhere,” interviewed 123 disabled people about their daily routine in six cities across four regions between November 2012 and March 2013.
While Russia has made some improvements — including service buses with wheelchair ramps, talking traffic lights for the blind and changes at schools to make them more accessible — critical public facilities are still largely off limits for handicapped individuals, the report said.
Public buildings offering healthcare, education, culture and employment services often have restricted access, depriving the disabled of vital needs and thus contributing to their isolation from society. In addition, the report said, the disabled often face more difficult conditions for communicating with friends and relatives, as well as with finding a potential spouse.
One woman interviewed, Alla, said she was forced to depend on others just to make a doctor’s appointment.
“You always need to find someone to be friends with who will call and make an appointment for you. Otherwise, you need to go personally to the doctor to get an appointment. If you do not have a mother, then there is no one to help you,” Alla said.
Nina, a deaf woman, said in the report that she had to have her son handle all of her doctor’s appointments because there was no way to make appointments over the Internet.
Perhaps more alarming, interviewees said emergency services lacked any system for deaf people to contact them, making it impossible for some disabled people to communicate with police, the fire department or paramedics.
“Emergencies are a big problem. You have to rely on your relatives. If something happens, who is going to call the emergency services? You can’t text them. I went to them and told them that they needed to have text messaging. That was a year ago. Nothing has happened,” said Yekaterina from Ulan-Ude.
Apart from trouble getting health services, a proper education and a job, disabled interviewees also said they faced trouble with more mundane tasks, such as moving around their apartment buildings, getting out of their apartment buildings and traveling around the city and country.
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