Empowerment Now! project helps PwDs of Semey to assess city social infrastructure

According to the national survey conducted by the Civil Society Development Association – ARGO under the USAID-funded <em>Empowerment Now!</em> project, access to public places, such as shops, theatres and cinemas, banks and other health, sport and educational facilities is very limited and thus, is a one of the main barriers that prevent people with disabilities from full-fledged employment and active participation Kazakhstani mainstream society.

As a part of the Empowerment Now! project, the Public Association “Istok,” assessed the accessibility of infrastructure for people with disabilities in the city Semey and surrounding area, This was the first of such assessments to be conducted in the city, where more than 12,000 people with disabilities reside.

Over a two-month period, 20 specially trained volunteers, including people with disabilities, assessed the accessibility of more than 400 public areas in Semey, Beskaragaysky district and Shulbinsk village. They interviewed people with disabilities and relevant city authorities from health and social protection, urban development, and architects.

Unfortunately, the results revealed that 402 out of the 433 assessed spaces, including sport and religious buildings are not adapted to meet the needs of people with disabilities.

These results were presented at a press conference in Semey on June 2, 2014. Journalists from seven local TV stations, radio and print media, as well as representatives of city authorities and public organizations attended the event. The city authorities declared their willing to make the city accessible to all citizens.

In addition the city government stakeholders received the assessment results, which were later discussed at a Public Council session under the City mayor’s office. During the meeting mayor of Semey, Mr. Aybek Karimov praised the assessment results and issued a bylaw demanding the retrofitting of existing public buildings to be accessible for people with disabilities. Moreover, the mayor asked all state-run organizations to allocate money in the 2015 budget dedicated to creating a barrier-free environment for people with disabilities in the city.