IT’S HARD TO LIVE IN A CITY WHERE YOU ARE ‘’INVISIBLE’’; PUBLIC TRANSPORT IN ARMENIA ISN’T ADAPTED YET
She works for the ‘’Bridge of Hope’’ NGO which tries to solve the problems disabled people have in Armenia and tries to get the attention of authorities to work on these problems.
‘’The NGO provides a car for me so I can move though the city and go to work. But if a car isn’t available, I have to use a taxi, which costs much more than public transport. It’s hard to live in a city where you are ‘invisible’; when on every trip you take you feel that nobody thinks about your problems,” Zara Batoyan said. “It’s as if you don’t exist.”
At the same time she says she has got to know the citizens of Yerevan. Zara Batoyan uses wheelchairs, and says that when she tries to move though the city by herself and meets a barrier that she can’t overcome. people help her. She says she can go out shopping and be sure that people will help her if it’s necessary.
‘’Once when I was trying to enter a store, a couple helped me get up the stairs to go in,” she said. “When I had finished my shopping and came out of the store, I saw that the same couple was waiting for me to help. This caring from people is the only thing that warms us spirits and makes us feel better.’’
The leading specialist for Vulnerable Groups Protection of Armenia’s Ombudsman Tatev Khachatryan, says they always raise the issue of availability accessibility because that’s the basis for other rights for disabled people.
‘’If disabled people can’t freely move in the city, they can’t go to work,” he said. “If they can’t use public transport because is not at all adapted, they can’t get an education. Last year municipality promised to adapt 10 buses in Yerevan, but the year ended and nothing was done.
This again speaks about the slowness of the municipality.’’ Khachatryan says his group will continue to regularly remind authorities about their promises.
According to Armenian legislation, disabled people can get a driver’s license if the medical committee will decide that they are able to drive a car. By order of the director of policlinics medical commission is created. Family doctor, oculist and surgeon are included there.
But even if they get a license, there is no place in Armenia to make a car adapted for them.
Armen Virabyan who has some difficulties with walking found it difficult to get a license.
Traffic police sent him to polyclinics to get the certificate that verifies he is able to drive. He got that certificate and took it to the traffic police, but they said that document isn’t ‘’acceptable.’’
‘’They told me that they are afraid that if something will happen, we’ll be convicted. We want to do a favor for you, but we can’t,’’ says Virabyan. He complained about this to different institutions but nothing changed.
There are more than 170,000 disabled people in Armenia. The municipality of Yerevan promises again to solve the issue of adapting public transport this year. They also promised to do it the previous two years.