Global Road Safety Week in Belarus
With the support of the FIA, EASST partners the Belarusian Auto Moto Touring Club (BKA) used the platform of UN Global Road Safety Week to raise awareness of the every day problems that people with disabilities in Minsk face when traveling around the city and establish an open dialogue between policy makers and the disabled community to improve mobility for all.
The BKA set up an exercise to illustrate the challenges through three individual case study demonstrations around the city in partnership with the Road Traffic Police, the Belarusian Union of Transport Workers, the Ministry of Transport, and national media (two newspapers and TV representatives).
The first demonstration was an interview from a driver’s perspective. The BKA talked to the mother of young wheelchair user. She described how she has struggled for years to get a dedicated parking space near her house for her disabled daughter. With very little support from the government, she faced misunderstanding and hostility from her neighbours who considered her to be unfairly occupying the parking space. She called on the government to take a greater lead in ensuring reserved parking spaces for people with disabilities are available in appropriate areas.
The second demonstration aimed to highlight issues faced by pedestrians in the city. BKA Director, Irina Potyakina, accompanied a young man with sight loss to cross the road at a pedestrian crossing. The main challenge they found was that the allocation of time for the ‘green man’ allowing people to cross the road was by far too little to allow people with disabilities to cross safely and calmly.
The third demonstration included civil society activist and wheelchair user, Alexandra Gorodnikova. Alexandra described to the media the problems that she frequently faces as a public transport user. For illustrative purposes she then invited the TV crew and took a trip on the specialists from the Belarusian Union of Transport to accompany her on a bus journey through the city. She selected a random bus, which ultimately lacked space for wheelchair users and was not wheelchair accessible, meaning she had to ask for assistance from other passengers to board the bus.
Each of these scenarios was broadcast widely on social media and traditional media to raise awareness of the accessibility problems people in Minsk are facing. The conclusion is that there is still much to be done, but the BKA are continuing to call on the government to take practical steps towards making public spaces in the country more accessible for all road users.