Barrier-free society as state policy
Picture this: three people of different heights are trying to watch a sports game over a fence. The tallest of them can see the game well, the second-tallest is forced to constantly strain their neck to see everything, and the shortest viewer can’t see anything at all. How can we improve their experience? It would seem logical to offer the two shorter viewers footstools. But what if that makes the tallest of the three feel neglected? The best thing to do would be to remove the fence completely, so that each viewer feels comfortable. But why are these people behind a fence at all? Perhaps they don’t know where the entrance is, or maybe they can’t afford a ticket. Our job is to invite them to sit comfortably among the other fans. This is what systematic elimination of barriers is all about, and it begins with state policy.
A state policy for a barrier-free environment means coming up with an approach that will allow every single person in our country to have free access to all aspects of life: education, career growth, unhindered travel and so on. In April of 2021 Ukraine approved the National Strategy for Barrier-Free Environment, which was developed as part of First Lady of Ukraine Ms Olena Zelenska’s Barrier-free initiative and in accordance with the President of Ukraine’s decree. The Strategy is a long-term action plan that will be implemented up until 2030, and it’s goal is to create a barrier-free society in 6 major directions.
The first aspect concerns physical barriers, which will be overcome with the help of new, inclusive architectural standards. This means that everything around us (the buildings, sidewalks, streets and public transport) will become easily accessible for people with reduced mobility (this includes people with disabilities, elderly people, children and guardians of small children and so on).
The second aspect deals with equal opportunities in civil society, so that all kinds of people can take part in political and social life. This approach means that every single person feels free to express their thoughts and doesn’t fear to be judged because of certain differences. On the contrary, our differences will help create a more diverse, vibrant society.
The third aspect is economic. It is our aim to create conditions that will allow equal access to jobs and protect people from any kind of workplace dicrimination. Our work in this direction will also include creating additional opportunities for people from different backgrounds to receive financial aid and other support that will help them start their own businesses.
The fourth aspect deals with education, although we might have mentioned it as the first direction of our work. After all, everything starts with our education. And everyone should have equal access to education – throughout their lives as well as in childhood. And this is what our state will work to provide.
The fifth aspect concerns the digital world – something we cannot imagine our lives without in the XXI century. A barrier-free digital space means that all social groups will have access to all kinds of online services and resources, as well as to the Internet itself.
The sixth direction of our work deals with information. This means creating conditions under which people, regardless of their mobility, functional disabilities or communication capabilities, will be able to access information and use all the necessary technologies.
Creating a barrier-free society also entails working on the misconceptions and stereotypes concerning various social groups. And this is precisely what this handbook is for.
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