Yuri Novikov, Minsk, Byelorussia
Founded in 1988, one of the main goals of the Byelorussian Society of the Handicapped has been to solve the problem of accessibility and to provide conditions for free movement of persons with disabilities and especially those who are using wheelchairs.
It is expected that one of the next sessions of the Byelorussian Parliament will adopt a draft law on social protection of disabled persons in Byelorussia. It will be a legislative provision of the steps aimed at elimination of social and physical barriers, preventing disabled persons from full participation. It will be aimed at the creation of environment and integration of disabled persons in public life as well.
In 1990 the Byelorussian Society of the Handicapped participated in developing new building requirements that were adopted by the Byelorussian State Committee on Construction. According to these norms it is foreseen that planning and designing of new settlements and reconstructing of already existing urban and rural settlements should be done regarding the provision of conditions for labor, educative and leisure activities of disabled persons, particularly those using wheelchairs.
In the first stage of solving this problem, the main accent will be on construction and reconstruction of separate, fully accessible housing complexes which will be inhabited by disabled persons but with maximum ability for them to use all public institutions, service and cultural facilities in the vicinity. Later on it is expected to expand this environment in the scale of the community and the whole city.
Attention should be paid to technical aids, allowing the disabled person the possibility to leave his apartment or house and visit public facilities. Moving in the streets and access to the public transport is a serious problem for disabled persons. That is why, according to the Construction Norms, all entrances to passage tunnels or bridges, or subway stations must be equipped with special paths, ramps or elevators. While planning new housing complexes, building organizations should consider accessible recreation and leisure areas, such as sports grounds.
Public buildings must be planned for people with disabilities as users and employees. Public buildings with more than one story must have elevators accessible to disabled people. Theaters, cinemas, concert-halls should have places for wheelchair users in the first or last row as well as entrances with elevators or ramps.
On the whole we may say that some sort of legislation on accessibility exists in Byelorussia but we can hardly say that this is solved. In fact, it is only the beginning.