How accessible is the regional center for people with disabilities? Can they go to a café, shop or pharmacy, governmental office? Are there many objects in the city, adapted to the convenience of people with disabilities? "Zamok" was figuring out how it feels for people with special needs to live in Uzhgorod.
A student of UzhNU journalism department Victoria Lysyuk, who has got a terrible diagnosis – cerebral palsy – admits that because she moves around in a wheelchair, in order to get to the university every day she has to overcome an entire obstacle course.
It all begins with the entrance of the building where she lives. However, it makes her pleased that the chief of the utility service, which serves their house, at some point equipped the entrance with a ramp and handrails, which are used by the girl to reach her apartment on the second floor. However, almost all the rest houses in the regional center are completely unequipped for wheelchair users, it is next to impossible for them to move there without help.
But even this is not the hardest thing: Vika says that taxi drivers often refuse to give her a lift, they say, there is no room for a wheelchair in the car boot or they find some other excuses. "Of course, buses are not equipped to transport people with disabilities, but, surprisingly, their drivers are more tolerant towards us. However, some of them resort to rudeness … Such behavior does not only leaves me with a bad feeling, but also deprives me of the opportunity to get to my destination".
In the main university building, in order to go up to the fourth floor the student has to use a lift. But if the classes are held in the basement then Vika’s friends and classmates help her get to it. She admits it makes her happy to know that, together with her loving and caring mother, she always has a number of friends who are willing to overcome any obstacles.
"In my opinion, Uzhgorod is not adapted for people with disabilities. In our city there are no low curbs, adapted elevators and so people with special needs cannot move without help. What concerns ramps, all of them are steep and covered with slippery tiles. Believe me, it is impossible to get to a store or pharmacy using them.
That is why Vika cannot plan her own leisure: every time she needs to get to the library, theater, or art institutions she requires help. Although the student wants to conquer at least the Czech Prague, because of the unsuitability of transport for people in wheelchairs, so far she can’t fulfill the dream.
However, every day despite the difficulties, she overcomes all obstacles as if they simply did not exist.
Uzhgorod citizens with special needs, which are now over 6000, most often are simply unable to use public facilities and forced to adapt to such conditions. According to the city Department of Labor and Social Protection, out of this amount hundreds of people with disabilities live in Uzhgorod. But due to the fact that most of them live on the 3-5th floors, they cannot even go outside.
Those 15 active people in wheelchairs, who have somehow adapted, are aware that the city is not equipped with flat drives to most churches, pharmacies, supermarkets, not all parking lots are properly equipped for the vehicles of the disabled people. High curbs and broken, littered with goods sidewalks, unregulated pedestrian crossings and impolite drivers – all this makes it difficult to move and that is why we can see them in the streets so rarely.
It is also difficult to move around for people with visual impairments, the number of whom in the regional center is also about a hundred.
We forget that people with certain problems also want to participate in social life on an equal basis with others. They have a need or desire to attend the same places as other citizens, to work at common enterprises, to study at secondary schools and colleges. But for those with impaired vision one of the most difficult barriers is the problem of movement in the streets and orientation in space. And, according to Oksana Bogdanets, a Chairman of the Public Organization of Persons with Disabilities, "Divny", a person who is always led by an assistant cannot be free and self-sufficient.