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Armenia Ignores Issues Affecting Persons with Disabilities, Ombudsman Became Convinced

A march kicked off today in the area next to the Republic Square metro station that aimed to draw the public’s attention to issues affecting people with disabilities. The march was organized by Unison NGO and the RA Human Rights Defender’s Office.

Dozens of citizens including people with disabilities marched along Yerevan’s Republic Square with Armenian Ombudsman Karen Andreasyan, frontrunner of local rock bank Empyray Sargis Manukyan, songwriter Gisane Palyan and her family, and radio host Yegor Glumov.

Near the Armenia Mariott Hotel, wheelchair users who were participating in the march attempted to board a bus. Four men lifted one of the participants with his wheelchair into the bus, after which it became clear, however, that there was no place to park a wheelchair on the bus. The wheelchair user was assisted off the bus and the march continued. The ombudsman, who was one of the men assisting the wheelchair user onto the bus, agreed that it’s impossible to travel on public transportation this way.

The group then marched to the RA Prosecutor General’s Office, only to find out that wheelchair users were unable to even enter the building due to the stairs at the entrance. The group then moved to city hall to hand over an open letter and request a meeting with city hall authorities.

Unison NGO Founding Director Armen Alaverdyan told journalists about the purpose of their demonstration and issues affecting persons with reduced mobility.

“We don’t feel real changes in our life; we are dependent on our assistants and we will probably remain so. No type of transport has been accommodated for those who have mobility issues. I would like to say that our demonstration is not directed against any particular person but is for the sake of equal opportunities, and we once again want to raise this issue — for actual work to happen, for our eyes to see. In truth, all this can be very easily and quickly organized; there simply should be no transportation tender without taking into account these standards. We have been raising this issue since 2002, while in 2005, we put forth a draft law package; however, it, entering circulation, yielded no results in the end,” he said.

On the matter of the ramps entering and exiting the numerous pedestrian underpasses in the capital, Alaverdyan said they are completely inconvenient.

“According to norms, in case of a meter-long rise, there has to be a 10-meter-long ramp; however, in Armenia, the ramps for meter-long rise are 5 meters long [i.e. they are too steep for wheelchair users]; that is to say, the violation is at least doubled,” he said.

Large-chain supermarkets in Armenia likewise have accommodated people with reduced mobility through insignificant gestures, the NGO director added.

“And as for the cultural institutions, [we] can enter only the Narekatsi Art Institute and the [Yerevan State] Chamber Theatre. In the Aram Khachaturyan Concert Hall there’s a portable ramp, which is somewhat inconvenient,” Alaverdyan continued in more detail.

Outside city hall, head of the municipality’s transportation department Henrik Navasardyan greeted demonstrators, accepted the letter and said he would pass on the message to Yerevan mayor Karen Karapetyan.