Lessons of kindness: promoting a more inclusive, barrier-free road environment for children with disabilities in Belarus
EASST partners, the Belarusian Auto Moto Touring Club (BKA) have launched a new project, supported by EASST, aimed at creating a joint educational programme on road safety for both disabled and non-disabled children. The programme, which is being delivered in partnership with the Road Traffic Police and the Belarusian Association of Assistance to Children and Young People with Disabilities (BelAPDIiMI), uses a specially adapted version of the EASST Road Safety Education Pack, which includes illustrations of children with different kinds of disabilities and aims to promote a more inclusive, barrier-free environment for people with disabilities in Belarus.
According to Ministry of Labour and Social Security data, as of January 2018 there were just over half a million people with disabilities in Belarus, over 30,000 being children under 18 years old.
A report on disability, mobility and road risk published by the BKA and EASST last year found that for the majority of disabled people in Belarus there are significant barriers to making even to most basic journeys, such as to the shops, to the doctor or to visit friends, due to unsafe roads and inaccessible transport.
In the context of road safety, there are currently no dedicated educational resources for children and young people with disabilities on road safety and there is little road safety education in schools. Children and people with disabilities are inherently more at risk on the road, it is therefore especially important that are aware of road risk and how to use the road safely.
On the 5th of July the BKA launched the first session at Kindergarten №.239. The children at the kindergarten were joined by a group of children aged between 5-6 years old with various types of disability and special educational needs.
The session aimed to teach all the children, who act both as pedestrians and as passengers, about safe behaviour on the road as well as how to provide a barrier-free environment for people with disabilities. This included emphasis on the principles of inclusion and mutual assistance, promoting equal educational opportunities and equal treatment for everyone on the roads.
The children learned about what dangers the road could pose and how to cross the road safely using “Stop. Look. Listen! “. The session also focused on the importance of visibility at night, and why it’s important to wear bright and noticeable clothes in the dark or in cloudy weather, as well as stressing the importance of using seat belts and child restraint systems when travelling as passengers in cars.
The children took part in practical activities and games to help them learn. Every child took part in the session gladly. The children with autism, who can find it difficult to join in group activities, fully participated.
A lovely example of the session’s success and positive atmosphere could be seen through one child who just three months ago suffered three strokes in a short amount of time. As a result, she almost did not attend the session but during the action she was so determined to participate that she refused to use her wheelchair. She started walking and joining in as she was so excited by the activities.
At the end of the session, the children from the kindergarten presented gifts and drawings to their visitors. All the children were then presented with reflective flickers to tie to their schoolbags, as well as sweets and certificates to show their parents.