Kids with dis­abil­i­ties now have play ar­eas

Kyiv Post - - Lifestyle - BY OLENA GONCHAROVA AND TOMA I STOMINA GONCHAROVA@KYIVPOST.COM, ISTOMINA@KYIVPOST.COM

Ed­i­tor’s Note: This ar­ti­cle is a part of the “Jour­nal­ism of Tol­er­ance” project by the Kyiv Post and its af­fil­i­ated non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion, the Me­dia De­vel­op­ment Foun­da­tion. The project cov­ers chal­lenges faced by sex­ual, eth­nic and other mi­nori­ties in Ukraine, as well as peo­ple with phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties and those liv­ing in poverty. This project is made pos­si­ble by the sup­port of the Amer­i­can peo­ple through the U. S. Agency for In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment and In­ternews. Con­tent is in­de­pen­dent of the donors. It’s rare to see chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties on the play­grounds in Ukrainian cities — not be­cause there are no such kids, but rather be­cause most city play ar­eas are sim­ply not ac­ces­si­ble for them.

There are some 8 mil­lion chil­dren in Ukraine, ac­cord­ing to UNICEF, of whom some 167,000 have phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties. Ev­ery year this num­ber in­creases by 0.5 per­cent.

Now a group of ded­i­cated vol­un­teers is work­ing to en­sure there are more places for kids with dis­abil­i­ties to play in the Ukrainian cap­i­tal.

The char­ity or­ga­ni­za­tion Friendly Peo­ple has raised $7,532 to build in­clu­sive play­grounds at three lo­ca­tions in Kyiv — Mari­in­sky Park, Taras Shevchenko Park and Peiza­zhna Al­ley.

Fundrais­ing

Ole­sia Ogryzko, one of the founders of Friendly Peo­ple, has al­ways wanted to help peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties.

Ogryzko worked in Ukraine’s Of­fice of the United Na­tions High Com­mis­sioner for Hu­man Rights and in 2014 helped to bring to Ukraine sup­port from Save the Chil­dren, an in­ter­na­tional non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tion that helps sup­port chil­dren in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries.

After Rus­sia launched its war on Ukraine in the Don­bas in 2014, Save the Chil­dren launched a di­rect emer­gency re­sponse in Ukraine and has so far sup­ported more than 89,000 chil­dren and adults liv­ing in gov- ern­ment-con­trolled and Rus­sian-oc­cu­pied ar­eas of Ukraine.

Now Ogryzko is help­ing to raise aware­ness about kids with dis­abil­i­ties and make Kyiv a more in­clu­sive city.

Ogryzko, with the help of other vol­un­teers, in­clud­ing com­mu­nity lead­ers from civil or­ga­ni­za­tions Pro­gres­sive Cit­i­zens of Ukraine and Dos­tupno UA, have put their heads to­gether to find a way to get play­ground equip­ment that ev­ery kid can en­joy.

“First, we wanted to fundraise for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties in gen­eral, but then we nar­rowed our fo­cus to

chil­dren,” she said. “That’s a friendly thing to do, and thus came the name of our or­ga­ni­za­tion.”

They launched a Friendly Peo­ple Night in May, a char­ity event or­ga­nized by the grad­u­ates of the In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions of Taras Shevchenko Na­tional Univer­sity, Ogryzko’s alma mater. Around 250 at­ten­dees dug into their pock­ets to do­nate Hr 200,000, or $7,532. It en­abled Friendly Peo­ple to start ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Cre­ative Ac­tive Play­ground, a con­trac­tor to equip three play­grounds in Kyiv with ac­ces­si­ble play­ground equip­ment.

The next step was to get ap­provals from Kyiv City Coun­cil.

“I was wor­ried that this would be the most time-con­sum­ing part,” Ogryzko said. But it went smoothly enough, and they re­ceived the re­quired ap­provals quickly.

In early fall, a play­ground in Peiza­zhna Al­ley was equipped with ac­ces­si­ble swings that are de­signed for chil­dren in wheel­chairs. The ac­tivists also in­stalled play­ground slides, tuba­phones made from a se­ries of metal tubes, an in­for­ma­tion board with a sign lan­guage al­pha­bet, and a merry-go-round with a rub­ber­ized sur­face that ac­com­mo­dates wheel­chairs and walk­ers.

“For us, it’s a pi­lot, our first baby, and now we’re think­ing about how to ex­pand the project,” Ogryzko ex­plains, adding that an “in­clu­sive nar­ra­tive” should be be­come the norm in Ukraine.

Apart from the three cen­tral lo­ca­tions, some in­clu­sive play­ground equip­ment has also been in­stalled in some of the cap­i­tal’s other play­grounds, such as the one in Kyiv’s Gryshko Botan­i­cal Gar­den, a play area at the De­part­ment of So­cial and Med­i­cal Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion for Chil­dren in Voskre­senka dis­trict, and a play­ground in Holosi­ivsky dis­trict.

As for other cities: west­ern Ukraine’s Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk, Berdy­chiv in cen­tral Zhy­to­myr Oblast and Pokrovsk (for­merly known as Kras­noarmiysk) in Donetsk Oblast can now boast of hav­ing in­clu­sive play­grounds, too.

Con­quer­ing slides

Vik­to­ria Panasyuk, who has a 10-yearold son Ye­hor who uses a wheel­chair, is some­thing of an ex­pert on the city’s in­clu­sive play­ground in­fra­struc­ture. Her son — de­spite suf­fer­ing from se­vere cere­bral palsy — spends around eight hours ev­ery day train­ing, studying and vis­it­ing cul­tural events.

“If he has the de­sire, and his mother has the in­spi­ra­tion, we con­quer ev­ery slide, be­cause he en­joys them the most,” Panasyuk says. “Just like ev­ery other kid, he wants to be self-suf­fi­cient.”

Panasyuk ad­mits that not ev­ery fam­ily will want to travel from the left bank just to “ride a swing” but agrees that such play­grounds can brighten chil­dren’s lives.

She says that Kyiv still has to learn not only to be­come more ac­ces­si­ble, but also to be tol­er­ant.

On July 28, Ye­hor and his mother were pre­vented from join­ing a group of chil­dren on a tour of the Roshen con­fec­tionery fac­tory in Kyiv be­cause he was in a wheel­chair. His mother wrote a post on Face­book de­scrib­ing the sit­u­a­tion, which was shared over 7,000 times and trig­gered a pub­lic dis­cus­sion.

“I wrote that post to pro­tect Ye­hor’s rights and hap­pi­ness,” Panasyuk told the Kyiv Post.

The whole sit­u­a­tion demon­strated the range of prob­lems that peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties face liv­ing in Ukraine, in­clud­ing the fail­ure of law, ar­chi­tec­tural in­ac­ces­si­bil­ity and so­ci­ety’s re­jec­tion, Panasyuk said.

She said that a Roshen rep­re­sen­ta­tive told her that she and her son would hold up the rest of the group. Ac­cord­ing to Panasyuk, the em­ployee also said that she didn’t want to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for Ye­hor, as there were stairs in­side the fac­tory. The fam­ily was asked to wait out­side un­til the end of the ex­cur­sion, which lasted an hour-and-a-half, and wait for a gift of candy.

“I asked (the Roshen rep­re­sen­ta­tive) if she thought (the of­fer) was ad­e­quate. She said that it was the only op­tion, and closed the door,” Panasyuk said.

Roshen, which is owned by Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko, gave a dif­fer­ent rea­son for not let­ting Ye­hor tour the fac­tory in a post on their of­fi­cial Face­book page. Ac­cord­ing to the post Ye­hor wasn’t let in­side be­cause his wheel­chair would break san­i­tary norms.

They also claimed that the fam­ily was of­fered to watch a movie and at­tend a candy tast­ing, which Panasyuk said was un­true.

Although Roshen con­ducts ex­cur­sions for chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties, they have a sep­a­rate pro­gram, ac­cord­ing to the com­pany.

How­ever, this con­tra­dicts the prin­ci­ple of in­clu­sion, pro­moted by First Lady of Ukraine Maryna Poroshenko, un­der which peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties should be given an equal chance to par­tic­i­pate in all ac­tiv­i­ties.

Panasyuk said that now they plan an­other group ex­cur­sion to Roshen for chil­dren from the school where Ye­hor stud­ies with other chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties.

“The kids are studying pro­fes­sions now, so we plan to show them dif­fer­ent work­places, and the Roshen fac­tory will be a good place to check as well,” she said.

“We’re work­ing on or­ga­niz­ing it, and we’ll see if any­thing has changed.”

Where to find in­clu­sive play­grounds in Kyiv

— Kyiv’s Gryshko Botan­i­cal Gar­den,

1 Tymiryazevska St. — De­part­ment of So­cial and Med­i­cal Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion for Chil­dren, 7A Kur­na­tovskoho St. — 1 Akademika Hlushkova Street — Peiza­zhna Al­ley — Shevchenko Park

Chil­dren en­joy merry-go-round on Nov. 8 that was in­stalled in a play­ground on Peiza­zhna Al­ley by char­ity or­ga­ni­za­tion Friendly Peo­ple. It has a rub­ber­ized sur­face and ac­com­mo­dates wheel­chairs and walk­ers. (Oleg Pe­tra­siuk)

Vik­to­ria Panasyuk and her 10-year-old son Ye­hor who uses a wheel­chair walk in Kyiv on Aug. 8. (Kostyan­tyn Ch­er­nichkin)

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