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Wheelchair-bound disabled filed a lawsuit for moral damages

06/08/2012

Wheelchair-bound disabled Sergey Matskevich living in Bobruisk filed a lawsuit to court against unitary communal branch road construction and maintenance enterprise for moral damages.

Sergey Matskevich, who because of spinal trauma, since 1989 has been moving around the city by wheelchair, at night on June 22, 2012 together with his wife was moving to Ice Hockey Palace along Uritskogo street on the right side of the sidewalk. He pulled off the curb to the road and started to cross the road at pedestrian crossing. 

“When I reached the other side of the road I saw that the curbstone was higher than 5 centimeters (maximum allowed in the road construction), and that is why I wasn’t able to get over it by myself,” – says Sergey Matskevich to the correspondent of Naviny.by

Sergey started to look for the way to get to the sidewalk and decided to move to the right where, as it seemed to him the curb was lower. But he didn’t manage to get to the sidewalk there: when he was trying to get over the curb he fell down. 

“My wife Olga Matskevich and passing by Galina Solonovich saw it. They couldn’t lift me and I was lying on the road right near the moving cars for about three minutes. Only then 2 men came up to us and helped me to get up”.

As the result of the accident Sergey Matskevich suffered emotional stress, felt dizziness and nausea. “I was very afraid, because I fell down on the road right next to moving cars, they could have run over me. I also got severe injury of right elbow and scratched my arm”. 

Sergey and his wife went to Bobruisk city hospital. Because of the injury he couldn’t drive his wheelchair by himself, his wife had to do it for about one kilometer. In the hospital he was rendered first medical aid, doctors diagnosed head’s soft tissue bruise, bruise of the right elbow, bruise of the chest. Neurosurgeon wrote the same in the health certificate. In his lawsuit to court Matskevich states that in accordance with the law “On social protection of disabled in the Republic of Belarus”: the republican bodies of state government, local executive bodies should provide disabled with the necessary conditions for free access to the social infrastructure facilities, industrial, communal and housing premises. Matskevich especially pays attention to the fact that this is not his individual problem. In the Republic of Belarus we have State standard 2030-2010 “Environment for physically weak people”, in which it is written that the height of a curbstone in places of the road crossing with the sidewalk has to be not more than 50mm and the angle of the ramps at these crossings has to be not more than 10%. 

The pedestrian crossing where I fell down doesn’t correspond with the existing norms, says Sergey Matskevich: “Maintenance of public roads and sidewalks in Bobruisk is done by the defendant, which is the specialized organization for the maintenance of the road fund. That is why I am sure that my fall happened through the defendant’s fault, in the result of which I was caused physical and moral damage”. 

In his lawsuit Matskevich wants to recover as the compensation for moral damages 10mln rubbles from the unitary communal branch road construction and maintenance enterprise. 

Sergey Drozdovskiy, the coordinator of the “Office for the rights of persons with disabilities”, who consulted Matskevich commented on the situation: “Because of the maladjustment of the city infrastructure for moving in a wheelchair disabled persons fall very often. I think that every person in wheelchair once in his life fell down when he was trying to get over a curb or other obstacle. In the majority of cases people do not believe that those responsible for the accident will be punished. When people appeal to organizations which are responsible for the maintenance these organizations show the feeling of impunity, offer to appeal wherever you want. That is why the court is the only choice left in such situation. 

But the experience of Drozdovskiy’s lawsuit shows that court will not always make the decision in favor of the victim.

Sergey Drozdovskiy and the head of Belarusian society of disabled Vladimir Potapenko (both are wheelchair-bound disabled) on March 12, 2009 couldn’t get into the building of National academic Bolshoi opera and ballet theatre because of the violation of construction norms. The attempt to solve the problem with the administration of the theatre became the beginning of a conflict. Security guard didn’t let them even enter the lobby of the service entrance. Drozdovskiy filed a lawsuit against the actions of the security guard having considered them to be discrimination and lost the case. 

It is another kind of case says Drozdovskiy about the case of Matskevich. “The court didn’t understand why we were talking about discrimination if we just had to freeze in the street then. In Matskevich’s case there is the direct connection between the violation of the legislation, Sergey will try to prove, and the damage he suffered. I don’t know how they will manage not to pay attention to recorded injures. The Office hopes that this time they will pay attention to obvious facts. Finally, people who construct with violations of the legislation must understand that it is no possible to continue to do it endlessly without any punishment. Besides, there are cases when curbs were constructed in accordance with the existing norms.”

Sergey Matskevish hopes to attract attention to the problem of barrier-free environment in Bobruisk and the country: “I understand that Bobruisk unitary communal branch road construction and maintenance enterprise is just the executor. But if I manage to win the case other wheelchair-bound disabled will not be afraid to demand to solve the problem of barrier-free environment.”

We didn’t manage to get the comments from the defendant. Unofficially we were told that if the enterprise receives letters about the lowering of a curb approved by Bobruisk city executive from some organizations it always meets the demands. But because the organization is up to 80% financed by the budget it cannot make the decisions about lowering curbs which has been at the organization’s balance by itself because in order to do it the organization needs financing. 

The situation in Bobruisk is the reflection of the situation with barrier-free environment in the country. 

We should remind that in May wheelchair-bound disabled held meeting and asked Alexander Lukashenko to provide their constitutional rights. As it was written in the appeal to the head of the state, Constitutional guarantees of persons with disabilities are violated or not observed, in particular those guaranteeing worthy life, freedom of movement, the right for worthy social provision. 

It was also written in the appeal, that inaccessibility of city infrastructure and the absence of barrier-free environment in the blocks of apartment are very pressing problems for wheelchair-bound disabled. According to different sources there are from 20 to 22 thousand wheelchair-bound disabled in the Republic of Belarus. 

Wheelchair-bound disabled demanded to “charge the responsible bodies with bringing the norms of technical legal act “Apartment buildings” in accordance with norms of the law “On social protection of disabled” and Constitution”. 

The only satisfied demand: 1st and 2nd group disabled with a special sign at their cars “disabled” were included to the list of persons who pass border control without standing in a line. 

Matskevich’s court sitting is planned to August 14. He says that if he wins he will give all the money for creating ramps in houses where wheelchair-disabled live.

“People can’t leave their houses because of the absence of ramps. It is very common practice that the city’s authorities, when they get the appeal to build a ramp near the house entrance, say that there is no money for it” – says Matskevich.