On March 26, Media Center hosted a discussion-press-conference on “The Challenges of People with Disabilities: Suggestions prior to Yerevan City Council Elections.” The invited speakers were representatives of organizations advocating disability issues: Harmony NGO president, RA presidential staff lawyer Albert Abgaryan, Unison NGO leader Armen Alaverdyan and World Without Obstacles NGO president Arman Musheghyan.
Armen Alaverdyan introduced the results of his pre-presidential election observations of polling-related issues for people with disabilities. According to him, there were only 31 (6%) polling stations with wheelchair ramps (inclined planes), inside 44 (9%) stations moving around was easy for people on wheelchairs, however access was impossible without somebody else' help.
“We have submitted to the city hall our suggestions on making the polling stations easily accessible and listed what and how exactly it can be done to manage in time for the municipal elections,” said Alaverdyan.
Harmony NGO president Albert Abgaryan reported that in 2007 cardboard ballot sleeves (Braille ballots) were put to practice for visually impaired people to allow them vote on their own. He said they are quite effective. “I myself used it, voted on my own, preserving the secrecy of the ballot,” he said.
Alaverdyan's monitoring has revealed that all the polling places were supplied with cardboard ballot sleeves, but for one; and Abgaryan added that visually impaired people have to be taught first how to use those, because they cannot try more than once on the voting day, the ballot would become invalid.
According to World Without Obstacles NGO president Arman Musheghyan, “when people with no disability issues are the decision-makers – and in our country they are the ones making decisions – they tend to forget about those who are physically challenged.” He also added that Abovyan town polling stations are not adjusted to disability needs, “but I nonetheless go and vote every time.”
“We keep hearing big promises, but every time they find ways to bypass their vows,” said Musheghyan and brought the yet non-resolved public transportation issues as a vivid example. “If the city hall had a physically challenged employee, s/he would keep reminding them of those issues on daily basis.”
The discussion covered not only shortcomings and challenges, but also what has been done. For example, the road surface marking dashed lines were painted yellow to help visually impaired people, and this is the result of joint work between the municipality and suchlike structures (organizations dealing with disability issues).
The full video footage of the press conference can be found at link.