On September 21, the second hearing of the case “On compulsion to bring the house in accordance with the construction norms and creation of barrier-free environment” took place in Pervomaiskiy district court of Minsk.
At the hearing the defendant agreed with some of the claimant’s demands: the absence of a ramp at the entrance to the premises of the partnership of owners of housing and the height of thresholds on the way to elevator that were constructed not in accordance with the construction norms. The defendant refused to admit 10 mln rubbles moral damage compensation demands of the claimant. “We consider that the claimant’s demands of compensation for moral damage do not correspond with the violations of his rights and his moral damages”, - said the defendant’s representative. The judge offered him to imaging as if he is Pavlovskiy and try to estimate moral damage.
The position of the third party who was invited to the sitting was also very interesting. The Administration of the Central district, the chief architect of which signed the house’s acceptance statement, said: “The demands of the claimant are groundless”. The representative of Republican unitary enterprise “Glavstroiekspertiza”, which accepted the building, said that got for expert evaluation only the project of the house’s basement. “It is a typical project. Standard house, but not a special one for persons with disabilities. Neither we nor the developer thought that persons with disabilities would live in it. And barrier-free environment requirements should be observed only at special houses”. This was the opinion of the representative of “Glavstroiexpertiza”. This “outstanding” thought was supported by the defendant: “In houses which are not specially designed for disabled it is allowed not to build a ramp, but to prepare the place for it. When we prepared the project of the building we couldn’t know that Pavlovskiy would live in it. That is why creating barrier-free environment is only the question of our good will.”
The defendant continued: “I also want to understand what the legal grounds are that we have to adjust the house in accordance with the barrier-free environment norms? Who would pay for it? We are sure that the state has to do it, but not our organization. We don’t have to finance these norms, we are the private company.”
It’s a pity that you can’t us the parties questions during the hearing. And the judge of Pervomaiskiy district court of Minsk, unfortunately, didn’t ask the question about proper fulfillment of “State program on creation of barrier-free environment for physically weak people for 2011-2015”.
The last hearing took place on September 27. The court called as an expert a specialist in the sphere of construction S.N. Sibirskiy, who gave expert explanations about the violation of the norms: “The norms of barrier-free environment in the building were violated. So, the height of door thresholds on the way to elevators should be not more than 2,5 centimeters. In this house it is 6 centimeters. What concerns the height of thresholds on the way to smoke protected stairway, it is a questionable problem and it depends from fire safety norms. But Mr. Pavlovskiy, as any other tenant of the building, has two ways out in case of fire: exit to the balcony of his own apartment, where the thresholds were constructed in accordance with the norms and fire safety elevator which is not blocked as others are in case of fire. Let’s imagine that the defendant will fix the height of the thresholds in corridors on the way to smoke protected stairway in accordance with the demands of the claimant. And in any case the claimant will not be able to use the stairway, there is no ramp and it is not adapted for wheelchair-bound disabled”, - said the expert. “The defendant will have to build a ramp to the entrance to the premises of partnership of owners of housing. I understand why it wasn’t built during the construction of the building. When the construction is in progress, in order to change one small element you have to change all the project documentation. The defendant had to make changes to the project but didn’t do it in time, that means he will have to do it now”. The answer of the defendant was outrageous: “Of course, we didn’t construct the ramp and did the wrong thresholds, but when we were making the project we couldn’t know that SOME DISABLED would live in it!”
One more important moment of the hearing was the position of the Administration of the Central district of Minsk which is responsible for the building. As it has already been stated, the Administration considered the lawsuit to be groundless. “You consider that my claim should not be satisfied. So according to your point of view a wheelchair-bound disabled doesn’t have to leave his apartment and live a full life. Does it mean – Pavlovskiy asked the representative of the administration – that you do not support the state policy aimed at the creation of barrier-free environment?” The representative answered: “No, it is not so. But our position in this case is the one that we have already claimed. And I can’t explain anything”.
In 30 minutes the court made the decision that showed that the society is changing its attitude towards the problem of Accessibility: the court partially (excluding the heights of the thresholds on the way to smoke protected stairway) satisfied the claim of Richard Pavlovskiy, satisfied the demand of compensation for moral damage and legal services. It is also a significant fact that the judge ruled to change the height of all the thresholds on the way to elevators in the building, but not only at the Pavlovskiy’s floor.
Sergey Drozdovskiy, the coordinator of the Office for the rights of persons with disabilities commented on the situation: “We are satisfied with the court’s decision. It makes us more optimistic and makes us think that the situation with rights of persons with disabilities what concerns Accessibility is getting better. Even such as it seems insignificant violations a high threshold or the absence of a ramp can become insuperable barrier in a person’s life. Pavlovskiy’s case showed that we have to change the situation and that we can change it. And what is very important that the court which ruled in favour of a wheelchair-bound person, has the same opinion".