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How Lepel becomes more accessible


Lepel is among the regions which have joined the campaign “Agenda 50” and have started to prepare a strategy of implementation of the Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities at a local level. 

First practical steps have been made

The head of the department of labour, employment and social work of the Lepel executive committee Vasiliy Ravovoi says that the first steps had been made much earlier than the country has signed and ratified the Convention. The first task here was to see people with disabilities in the streets. On one hand it is important that this group of people wouldn’t be “invisible” in the region on the other hand – to create accessible environment and services including everyone in public life.

- Elimination of architectural barriers became the first thing we did. Today a lot have been done but it is still difficult to say about the complete absence of barriers. We understand that there is a lot to strive for, - Ravovoi shares the experience. - But elimination of physical barriers is not enough. We have started to work with firms and organizations paying their attention to people with disabilities who can be users of their services. After it owners have started to plan some changes.

And people came out of their houses. After the daycare center have been created in the territorial center, in which there are a lot of different workshops and classes, people with disabilities have become more active and many of them came to study even on days off.

We also have a low-floor bus and we are proud of it. We increased the size of signs in the town – at bus stops, shops, polyclinics. We hope that it will ease life of people with visual impairments. We made specially marked parking places for persons with disabilities. 

Started from small things and are moving forward

Lepel is open for cooperation. Specialists of administration and construction spheres are ready to improve, to learn new things and to be at the forefront of what is happening. Many ideas we brought to Lepel from Germany which went a long way from exclusion to inclusion of persons with disabilities.

Today we are constructing a building of the Center of labour, social and legal rehabilitation for persons with disabilities. New labour workshops will appear here in which people will be able to work and to get paid for their labour.

We are planning to discuss with a shoe factory “Marko” execution of a part of work for them. For example, in this center we could glue boxes for shoes. We are also discussing with a small furniture enterprise a possibility of cooperation: employees of the future center could fulfil some kind of work, for example, to complete sets of bolts and nuts for furniture.

We got funds for this big project from Germany, additional construction is financed from the local budget. Understanding the importance of inclusive transformations the local authorities and NGOs have actively included in the search for finances for the development of the region.

Understood the essence of cooperation

Regardless that local business doesn’t show much activity in the city’s transformation NGOs and local authorities, healthcare and education sectors started to cooperate more successfully.

- I understood the value of such cooperation during a study visit to Poland which was organized by the Office for the rights of persons with disabilities together with polish colleagues. In Poland I could see what results can be achieved if the authorities work together with NGOs and different funds.

After the return from Poland we have created in Lepel district a Council on cooperation of state bodies and NGOs which makes decisions concerning city’s life. For example, it decides what should be taken into account during construction of new buildings, what should be reconstructed, what equipment we should buy etc. If there is a new store in the city the Council holds an inspection if it is an accessible one or not, if there are necessary elements of accessibility and how they work.

During the study visit we got acquainted with delegations from other regions. After the return we went to look at the colleagues’ experience. We were in Volozhin where resources are spent for elimination of barriers and transformation of the region to an accessible one for all the tourists, - says Vasiliy Ustinovich. – We returned home with our own ideas and plans.

That was the beginning of the project “Lepel – a territory of equal opportunities”, which we are dreaming to realize in the future. We want to create in the district a complex of touristic services accessible absolutely for everyone.

- We have a building the second floor of which we would like to reconstruct into a touristic base. Such a base that any person, including people with a limited mobility, could stay there. Near it there is a canteen and a school and it gives us a possibility to render additional services such as educational and food services. Besides, nearby there are three hectares of land which could be used as sports grounds, for recreational and rehabilitation purposes. The authorities want to improve the beach in local recreational area around Lepelskoe lake. Special equipment giving people in wheelchairs an opportunity to swim, fish etc. will be installed.

- Our key goal is not to exclude people with disabilities but to include them into the region’s life. We will be very happy if people from other regions of the country will visit us, including people with disabilities. We are ready to do everything for this, - says Vasiliy Ravovoi.

According to the representative of the Lepel district executive committee the region is always ready to continue the cooperation accepting foreign and Belarusian guests.

Prepared in the frames of the campaign “Agenda 50” financed by the European Union.