On February 10, more than 30 volunteers took part in a training where they learned how to evaluate the accessibility of buildings to people with disabilities. The training’s participants – local officials, NGO members, owners of farmsteads, journalists – will perform such evaluations in Volozhin district. They will present their results in the middle of the summer.
Around 170 objects will be studied; the majority of them are cafes, restaurants, post offices, banks. Also, 8 farmsteads from Volzohin district have been included in the list. The list’s composition reflects the aims of the project Volozhin without Barriers that provides the framework for the study.
The project should allow people with disabilities to enjoy more comfortable vacation in the region. Around 30 buildings in Volozhin will be renovated in accordance with this social group’s needs; a tourist center composed of a hostel and a conference center will open for them. The region also boasts Nalibokskaya pusha, an old and dense Belarusian forest, where a special environmental trail will open. The project Volozhin without Barriers is funded by the European Union. Four partner organization are realizing the project, Interakcia Foundation is among them.
The monitoring study will start in April and end in June. Its conclusions will inform a district’s strategy for social integration of people with disabilities. The strategy, in its turn, should help the local authorities in making emphases when dealing with accessibility issues. The volunteers who attended the training on February 10 will be evaluating the objects together with experts from the Belarusian Association of People with Disabilities.
The training started with a presentation by Natallia Lazovskaya, an architect from Belarusian National Technical University. She demonstrated many examples of pedestrian crossings, parks and squares, hotels and restaurants being accessible to people with disabilities. Natallia underscored the need to think in terms of universal design, that is, in terms of creating life, work, and recreational conditions reflecting interests and needs of all social groups.
Then, Sergei Drozdovski, Deputy Chair of the Belarusian Association of People with Disabilities explained to the participants of the training how to use evaluation forms that had been distributed to them. After that, the volunteers had some practice in Volozhin and evaluated to what extent the city administration’s building, cinema, and hotel live up to the standards of accebility. Unfortunately, none of these objects could show good results; for instance, there is no a special toilet in the cinema, and a room for people with disabilities is still being "renovated" in the hotel.