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Following the Office’s experience. Accessibility festival took place in Kharkov.


Festival “InclusiON” took place in Kharkov, it was dedicated to a barrier-free environment. Specialists of the Office for the rights of persons with disabilities became experts at several events in the frames of the festival.

Inspired by the Belarusian Accessibility Week, a festival with the similar goals, which had been held in Belarus for the 5th time, civic activists from Kharkov had decided to organize the same event in their city. “InclusiON” is the first attempt to join civic initiatives, state bodies, mass-media and activists interested in the topic.

The festival has started with a press-conference at which the organizers bravely said that they were going to make the event an annual one. Why Kharkov?

The answer is very simple – we live in this city and want to do something for it – says one of the organizers of the fest the president of Kharkov oblast foundation “Public Alternative”, the head of the coordinative council of Coalition against discrimination in Ukraine Maria Yasenovskaya. – Yes, we could have started from the capital, but it is enough to do everything just for Kiev, let’s do something here for us.

We should mention that almost 2 million people live in Kharkov that is why the event shouldn’t be considered as a local one. The organizers many times had stated that the fest is dedicated not only to a barrier-free environment for persons with disabilities, the topic is much wider.

- Every one of us once in his life was in a situation of a limited mobility – explains a member of the board of Kharkov oblast foundation “Public Alternative” Victoria Babiy. – People carrying heavy bags, parents with strollers, pregnant women, elderly people and people in cast – they all are people with a limited mobility.

It should be mentioned that the Belarusian fest also wasn’t limited by disability topic. Ecological, youth and HR defence organizations traditionally join the Accessibility Week in Minsk. We want to make our cities and countries comfortable for all people what is presented in the philosophy of universal design. By the way, the universal design topic was raised in Kharkov as well. The coordinator of the Office for the rights of persons with disabilities Sergey Drozdovsky held two lectures for students-architects and activists who were interested in using possibilities of universal design in their city.

At the same time the expert reminds that physical accessibility is not the only goal of our events.

Accessibility is not just a physical absence of some barriers and the presence of ramps. First of all, it is to what degree every human right is accessible for a person with disability. Every person should have a possibility to use his/her rights without any humiliation and contempt for human dignity.

Specially for the fest the organizers translated a Belarusian book “Disability etiquette” into the Ukrainian language and presented it in the museum of literature.

Belarusian experts several times had participated in shows of Kharkov city and oblast TV. Unfortunately we can’t say the same about participation in TV-shows in Belarus.

The festival ended in a city quest and young people with disabilities took part in it.

Several times we have been asked to compare accessibility of Minsk and Kharkov:

These cities are similar in some features, - answers Sergey Drozdovsky. – There are places where you can see that people thought how to make a street or a building an accessible one but there is no system approach in the both cities.

The expert mentioned that there are, for example, accessible buildings but it is difficult to get to them by public transport. Or at first sight you think that a building is accessible but in reality a ramp was built “for beauty” and cannot be used.

Openness unites Belarusian and Ukrainian civic activists. We are open for cooperation. Belarusian Accessibility week traditionally takes place in the end of April – the Beginning of May. Come join us!

Festival “InclusiON” was held in the frames of the campaign “HR defenders of Belarus and Ukraine together for protection of public interests”.