Sunday, September 15, 2013

Russia: End Hurdles for People with Disabilities

A huge purpose of technology is to solve problems, problems such as the barriers that keep out 13 million people with disabilities in Russia from participating in the society. There are three key different angles from which you can view this issue.
First, Russia, like most of the world, has historically been unfriendly towards people with disabilities. In 1980, the Soviet Union refused to host a Paralympics, claiming, “There are no disabled people in USSR.” Perhaps this was simply lost in translation, but it is important to note that there is a distinct difference between referring people as “disabled or handicapped people” and “people with disabilities.” “Disabled people” reduces a whole group of people into their one handicap; they have no other characteristics besides their disability. This type of mentality makes one think that an entire demographic of human beings hopeless, useless, and worthless because they cannot contribute to the society. Thus, we see Russia ignoring not only the rights of people with disabilities but their existence by having malfunctioning elevators, nonexistent ramps, and substandard healthcare because of health workers’ unwillingness to treat them.
Second, in 2012, Russia ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which makes the government responsible for making physical environments and services as well as employment equally available and accessible for people with disabilities. However, this only ended up becoming a classic example of how law doesn't guarantee enforcement. Its laws promise people with disabilities a life with accessible housing, transportation, rehabilitation, and information when in reality, we see that the employment rate for people with disabilities hover around 20 percent. The gaping gap between the dreamy promises of the government and the harsh reality is what people with disabilities and their families have to face.
Lastly, what we have to remember is that we want to believe that the world has the technology to accommodate for the people with disabilities. However, even in the most developed and supposedly disability-friendly countries, such as the United States and the nations in the European Union, we see that the quality of life for them are not ideal. In many cases, we still treat disabilities as taboos. We automatically pity people with disabilities and distance ourselves from them. The most important part about this Russia article, I think, was that it gave me a chance to reflect on our own society and how we treat people with disabilities.
On a more optimistic note, we can see Russia taking baby steps toward progress. The government has begun a multibillion-ruble initiative to improve the infrastructure and services for people with disabilities. While it does neglect people with intellectual or mental disabilities, it is still progress. As Russia commits itself to ensuring a successful Paralympic Games in the winter of 2014, although it is hard to expect any substantial or nationwide changes, we can hope to see a lasting change for the plight of the people with disabilities.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting commentary on this country that has always had a pretty bad record in terms of human rights. I think you say some interesting things about disabilities that go for all countries, not just Russia. I think that you are right, we tend to distance ourselves from things we don't understand or things that are different from us. It's easier to see them as "other" rather than to see them as fellow human beings. If we see them as human beings, we have to admit that our species is flawed and many people have problems with this. Many totalitarian governments try to eradicate this flaw through violent means, as we have seen with North Korea.