Promoting Disability Rights and Eradicating Mobility Poverty
Soon after we delivered the first container of wheelchairs to the city of Odesa in Ukraine, it quickly became clear that simply supplying wheelchairs to people was not, in itself, enough to alleviate the challenges that vulnerable disabled people endure. Ukraine, like many others countries in the world, is not accessible to those with a mobility, cognitive or mental impairment.
Moreover, when speaking to members of the public, politicians and officials from city, oblast (regional) and central governments, it was apparent that people were also not aware of how to create accessible environments for disabled people so they can live independent lives free from inequality, discrimination and hate crime.
Our motivations to get involved in this work in Ukraine stems from our Convener's personal interest. He visited Ukraine on holiday and noticed very few disabled people out and about and even less access to the environment. He decided that he would like to form a charity to help disabled people in Ukraine, and in Scotland, and asked if I would like to join him. Without hesitation I agreed and when I first visited the city of Odesa the only wheelchair that I saw was my own and it was obvious that the environment gave no consideration to access for people with disabilities.
This is how Disability Beyond Borders was born. We exist to eradicate ‘mobility poverty’ and to promote equality for disabled people. We work with disabled people, organisations, and government officials in both Scotland and Ukraine to educate people at all levels about the rights and needs of disabled people.
At present we are working with the oblast government of Lviv in advising on the design of a hospital for injured veterans of the war with Russia in Eastern Ukraine.
We are also advising on access to a large psychiatric hospital that has over 500 patients, many of whom could be living in the community but such is the lack of access and understanding that at present people with hidden disabilities are institutionalised. The hospital was originally built in 1865 and has not changed very much since then. The challenges are significant and interesting but not insurmountable.
More needs to be done in Scotland and Ukraine to assist disabled people to live their lives with dignity, respect, choice and independence.
The majority of our work is face-to-face, hand-in-hand with decision makers across all sectors to change the environment in which people live so that environments are more inclusive and people can actually get around their own communities. We must continue and expand on our existing work to stop the institutionalised isolation of disabled people because without exception isolation leads to a decline in a person’s mental health that only adds to the struggles and challenges that it takes for a disabled person to live their life on a day-to-day basis.
In Scotland Disability Beyond Borders plans to recruit a Disability Access Officer. This new post will advise access panels, disability organisations, disabled people and government officials at all levels on the creation of inclusive environments when designing new and existing projects and during planned maintenance procedures.
The task ahead is not big, it’s enormous and to achieve our aims of reducing ‘Mobility Poverty’ and promoting ‘Equality For Disabled People’ across the world we need funding, sooner rather than later. Without funding, it is ultimately disabled people who suffer, usually in silence, at home, across Europe and indeed the world.
Check out our website and get in touch if you want to get involved.