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OVERCOMING THE OBSTACLES

Ara Harutyunyan

Zara Batoyan has been struggling for 15 years for disability rights in her country, Armenia. Now she tries to make the municipal authorities to create accessible environment for people with disabilities.

There are still many public places – parks, universities, shopping centers etc. - which don’t have ramps and are not accessible for people with disabilities. She uses wheelchair and she knows by heart all the places in the city which are accessible for people with disabilities and which ones are not. Zara faces a lot of obstacles during her routine life in her hometown Yerevan while shopping, getting to work, but still she does not want to leave her city.

‘’I’ve traveled a lot abroad. I lived in US for months and the conditions for people with disabilities there are just amazing. I want to see our city accessible for everyone. That’s why I’m fighting to make change happen’’, Zara says.

She says when she faces an obstacle in the city people rush to help her out.“I wanted to enter a shop and a couple helped me to climb up the stairs near the entrance. When I left the shop they were still waiting for me to help. Sometimes I go out alone, because I’m sure whenever I need help Yerevanians will be there’’.

She is an editor-in-chief of Disabilityinfo.am website producing articles for people with disabilities and others interested in the issue. The website monitors the state’s programs.

‘’We are trying to prove that this topic is not ‘’sad’’ or ‘’boring’’ but it also might be interesting and useful for people’’, she says.

Zara says sometimes people refer to people with disabilities like persons ‘’being nailed to the wheelchair’’. Zara thinks when ordinary people talk this way is less disappointing, rather than professionals– journalists, educators, and healthcare workers - have the same attitude.

Zara says she is lucky she has a family, friends who always support her, but there are other people with disabilities who are isolated from the society.

‘’If their lifestyle is their choice, it’s Ok, but whenever they want to live a life like other citizens, they should have equal opportunities’’.