The speakers were Zara Batoyan, “Yelq” Alliance, and Ruzanna Zakaryan, Head of Social Department of Yerevan Municipality.
At the beginning of the discussion, speakers referred to the problems of accessibility for people with disabilities in the city. Zara Batoyan said that during the recent years a stereotype has developed that, for example, building ramps solves the city's accessibility problems but there are deeper problems, which are not taken into account properly.
“The main problem is access to transport, urban development problems that do not enable freedom of movement for people with mobility problems. I also want to note that the accessible environment does not mean only ramps. Now another stereotype was shaped when ramps mean accessible environment. That's not the point. Yes, ramps are being built in some places but all inclusive approaches are absent from all standards development initiatives,” Batoyan said.
The latter said that there is a problem of inclusive approach to which the city authorities and decision makers do not pay attention.
“An important issue is the lack of inclusion of the needs of persons with disabilities in development projects in the city because we have been implementing many projects but they are not taking into account the needs of all citizens. If we implement a program, then that program should cover all needs,” Batoyan said.
Ruzanna Zakaryan highlighted that creating an accessible environment for the people with disabilities has always been at the core of Yerevan Municipality’s attention.
The latter introduced the activities conducted for the needs of people with disabilities.
“In 2013-2016, 2000 ramps were built in different parts of the capital's streets, which have become more quality as before the construction we invited non-governmental organizations and asked them to submit a list of priority streets where it is necessary to build ramps. Today we have grooved surfaces excerpts in various parts of 73 streets that warn people with visual impairments of the imminent completion of the path. Traffic lights with visual signals are installed in 54 intersections as to warn those who have difficulties of movement about the period for crossing the street. There are 101 paid parking spaces allocated for the 1st, 2nd group of persons with disabilities and their transport vehicles, and they receive vouchers from the Municipality for free access. Already 300 people have received such identifications. 25 buses are equipped with special lifts for the transportation of persons with disabilities,” Zakaryan said.
Disagreeing with Ruzanna Zakaryan, Zara Batoyan said that not all the buildings constructed during the recent years meet the requirements of people with disabilities
“Armenia cinema on which much money was spent is not adapted for people with disabilities. “Yans” club is not adapted either, the same is in the case of many restaurants. Parking areas, which are for people with disabilities, must be wider that a person is able to come up and get on the car. No parking lot, which is marked for the disabled, has such facilities,” Batoyan said.
She added that elevators of several buses adapted for the disabled people are broken and not repaired. In general, the number of such buses is very few and there is no information about itineraries and it is difficult or impossible to get that information.
Ruzanna Zakaryan noted that the concerns raised require substantial financial resources for systemic solutions. The current issue is at the center of municipality’s attention, and solutions are given.
“For example, broken elevators are currently being renovated and the buses will soon work again,” Zakaryan said.
The speakers also touched upon the issue of inclusive education in schools and kindergartens. Ruzanna Zakaryan noted that inclusive education system is gradually being introduced in schools, such a system also operates in kindergartens. Zara Batoyan said that there are no specialists with relevant education in kindergartens who can take care of the disabled children.
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