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 December 6, 2002 

In Recognition: Disabled persons honored with special day

Armenia joined the United Nation's observance of International Day of Disabled Persons Tuesday (December 3).

It was a day to recognize "people who are equal and valuable members of society and who create material and cultural values," said the head of the UN Armenia Public Relations Department Valeri Tkachuk.

Many disabled people, representatives of ministries, Non-Governmental Organizations dealing with issues connected with invalids and guests gathered at the Armenian office of UN.

Among the guests for the celebratory occasion, 19-year old Hayk Grigoryan expressed a common desire:

"I'm not happy today. I have a wish that there are no invalids at all in the world."

The reality is more severe. Today there are 110,000 invalids living in Armenia.

Head of the Invalids Issues Department of the Ministry of Social Welfare Jemma Baghdasaryan says, "our main goal is to integrate invalids into society and create equal conditions for all of them. We resolve many issues with about 15 NGOs that are dealing with invalids' problems."

The disabled themselves are of different opinion concerning integration.

President of the Veratsnund Charity Fund dealing with those having spinal defects Misha Mkrtchyan (pictured) says, "it would be more correct to prepare society to integrate with invalids. And invalids' integration must start from their families, neighborhood, and salesmen of their streets' kiosks."

An exhibition in the UN office's gallery tells about huge work done by Bridge of Hope and Pyunic NGOs.

The head of Pyunic's Armenian office (it is also registered in the US) says that many problems concerning invalids are solved by their efforts, however there are questions that need attention from the State and the international awareness day is a reminder.

"Today we involuntary find ourselves in the center of the republic's attention," Mkrtchyan says. "We are taken into account."

A round table discussion at the Union of the Architects was dedicated to the invalids' adaptation to the urban demands in the field of design and construction.

"Today's buildings, constructions, roads almost don't correspond to the people with limited possibilities. It's necessary to prepare new programs of construction, which will provide invalids with the available conditions," says head of the Urbanization and Natural Resources Department of the Administration of the Government Sirekan Ohanyan.

The new streets constructed in Yerevan by the Lincy Fund are an example of an attempt at meeting needs of the disabled, as sidewalks have been built to include access ramps.

"I always dreamt to see special ramps in our city. Of course, I've not passed on them yet but I'm very happy and thankful," says 19 year old Arevik Musakhanyan (pictured) from Yerevan.

Although the ramps don't correspond to international standards the effort is appreciated by those who need them.

"I myself participated in preparing the letters to the Government. We asked to make some changes in the design works implemented by the Lincy project," Mkrtchyan says. "And as a result those special ramps were prepared. Of course, there is a 1-3cm barrier but an invalid can overcome it with the wheelchair. The important thing is that they have started to make those changes and in future they will fix it."

According to Ohanyan, from now on the issue of providing invalids with equal conditions will concern construction and design of the new buildings and buildings that are under reconstruction.

"My friend is in a wheelchair," says Anahit Vardanyan. "When we were in some parks with her, we felt bad. But now we are extremely happy as at last special ramps were built."


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