130801 Barriers everywhere Russia HRW

Barriers Everywhere: Lack of Accessibility for People with Disabilities in Russia

Human Rights Watch

There are at least 13 million people with disabilities in Russia today. People who use wheelchairs or crutches; people with cerebral palsy; people who are blind or have low vision; people who are deaf or hard of hearing; people with intellectual or developmental disabilities like Down’s syndrome or autism, people with mental health problems, and those with multiple disabilities live in every major city, town, and rural area. While Russia has taken some important steps in recent years to advance protections of the rights of people with disabilities, this report finds that the government has much more to do to ensure the
right to an accessible environment for people with disabilities.

Among the steps that Russia’s government has taken in recent years to show its commitment to ensuring the rights of persons with disabilities was the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2012. As a key component of implementing the CRPD, Russia is executing a four-year, multibillion-rouble Accessible Environment Program (2011- 2015), involving federal funding and advisory support to increase access for people with disabilities to education, healthcare, information, transportation, and other public services in several Russian regions.

In March 2014 Russia will host the Winter Paralympic Games in Socchi, a Black Sea resort city that is home to some 340,000 people. By hosting the Paralympics, Russia is taking an important step toward including people with disabilities as visible participants in society.

Despite these initiatives, however, as this report finds, for many people with disabilities in Russia taking part in the basic activities of daily life, such as going to work, school, or university, gathering with friends or relatives, buying groceries, attending cultural events, or visiting the doctor, can be extremely difficult or even impossible due to a range of different types of barriers they encounter. Barriers can be physical, such as the absence of a ramp or elevator to an apartment, train station, or workplace; or they can consist of attitudes that result in discrimination by employers, doctors, transport operators, or shopkeepers. Consequently, many people with disabilities may rarely leave home, have incomplete or substandard educations, and may never start a family or have meaningful employment.

Based on interviews with 123 people with disabilities in six cities throughout Russia, local governmental organizations (NGOs), and representatives of disabled persons organizations (DPOs), this report examines access to the physical environment, transportation, employment, private businesses, and health and rehabilitation services and analyzes discrimination by transport operators, employers, and healthcare workers.