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Equality, a strategy to integrate and enable disabled people

Odessa
Ukraine

 

OGOIN, an NGO of disabled people of Odessa, was created on 28 May 1989. In 1990, several members of OGOIN were elected as members of the municipal assembly, which lead to the creation of the City Committee on Disabled People Issues – the only one in Ukraine – and to the adoption in 1991 of the municipal program named ‘Equality’ which is still operating. The main objective of the program is to facilitate the life of people with limited physical abilities and to provide them access to different objects of the municipal infrastructure (public spaces, social use, or housing), to create a barrier-free environment in the city.

The beneficiaries of the program are disabled people of Odessa and their families. Representatives of disabled people’s organizations are regularly invited for the Committee’s sessions in order to analyze the program’s successes and failures and to collect proposals for further actions, including the creation of a list of items that need to be developed through the municipal budget. The Committee on Disabled People’s Issues was created at the City Hall in 1998. Currently, Odessa is the only city in Ukraine with this kind of Committee and operating a respective municipal program.

The program is financed through the municipal budget. The amounts planned initially were: 1,373,865 hryvnyas in 2009; 1,265,640 hryvnyas in 2010; and 1,271,140 hryvnyas in 2011. In 2009, this number represented about 0.06% of the city budgeted expenditures, while in 2010 the program allotment dropped down significantly. However, in February 2010 the program received additional financing, doubling its overall costs to reach 2,600,000 hryvnias and reaching the previous level of 0.06% of the budget again.

The overall results of the program can seem either quite modest or highly impressive, depending on one’s base of comparison. Odessa is the only city in Ukraine with a political committee on disabled people’s issues the only city that continues to construct ramparts in old buildings (where they were not constructed initially), the city with the highest number of traffic lights with sound signals in Ukraine (there are 58 traffic lights with sound signals in Odessa, while in Kiev there are only 30). According to a study by the Municipalities Institute conducted in February 2010, Odessa holds the top position in the ‘life comfort level’ ranking of Ukrainian cities. However, there are ongoing difficulties such as a lack of transparency in the use of funds (which is typical for Ukraine in general). As well, the municipal infrastructure is still extremely poor compared to most European cities, although in comparison to other large cities in Ukraine, Odessa enjoys the highest number of facilities for disabled people.

Apart from financial difficulties, several specific obstacles were faced. For example, the initial installation of traffic lights with sound signals failed because of a lack of certified equipment in Ukraine, and it took time to find the traffic lights abroad and to pass them through the certification process in Ukraine. Problems like this one can generally be explained as a result of the unpreparedness of local government institutions and local stakeholders to operate in a reformed environment, under conditions of a poor level of decentralization and a lack clearly defined responsibilities and competences for local governments and local communities. Together with high bureaucracy and corruption levels, these conditions create a large variety of formal bureaucratic obstacles for the implementation of any program.