NGO Drafts Law to Make Armenia “Disabled friendly”

YEREVAN (ArmeniaNow.com)–In commemorating the International Day of Disabled (December 1)–Armenia’s Unison Non Governmental Organization presented a draft law aimed at improving accessibility for the disabled in Armenia.

The NGO organized a conference titled "Unhampered Environment for Everyone," during which the proposed legislation was discussed with international organizations–members of the National Assembly and various government ministries.

Unison NGO Executive Director Armen Alaverdyan says the draft law "Ensuring Accessibility of Places of Public Importance and Transport to Disabled People and People with Limited Mobility" is based on Article 48 of the newly amended Constitution that bans discrimination against the disabled.

To ensure the full integration of the handicapped into public life–the organization conducted research aimed at establishing access to public offices in Yerevan.

"None of the 270 researched offices was fully corresponding to these parameters," says the organization’s sociologist Tatevik Margaryan. "Healthcare establishmen’s are the most accessible of them."

More ramps are built in cafes–restauran’s–shops than in government buildings. Margaryan says that at Zvartnots airport wheelchair-bound people are made to feel more like baggage. And in Yerevan’s newly constructed municipal building ramps are missing altogether–even near the entrance.

Alaverdyan also questions how those who can’t walk managed to vote in the constitutional referendum–during which many polling precincts were situated on the second floor of buildings.

Head of the Department for the Disabled and Elderly People of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs Jemma Baghdasaryan says that the Ministry once applied to the Lincy Foundation–and 261 ramps were built in Yerevan.

Head of the organization’s legal group Marat Atomyan says that Arshakunyats Avenue–which was repaired within the framework of the same Lincy Foundation–has no ramp–and the height of the barrier is 30-40 centimeters. Central streets in Stepanavan and Tsaghkadzor were completely repaired recently. There are no ramps there either–and the height of the barrier is 40-50 centimeters.

According to the lawyer–the draft law proposed by the organization will ensure disabled-friendly transport and town-planning. It is said in the corresponding point of article 48 of the Constitution that the state must ensure accessibility–but not how and when.

"The Ministry of Urban Development is currently developing norms–we don’t want to change anything in those norms–we only propose a legal basis to them so that these norms are based on the draft we present," he says.

Atomyan says: "We have drafted additions to the code of administrative violations. We suggest three new articles on transport and town-planning accessibility. If there are violations–then corresponding state inspecting bodies can bring a given entity to administrative responsibility."

The Unison NGO and the Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation has published–with the assistance of the World Bank–an accessibility guidebook called "Yerevan: A City for All." The guidebook distinguishes by color where people with limited mobility can go and where they cannot.

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