- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 December 5 , 2003 

Celebrating Themselves: Day of Disabled marked in Yerevan

According to Ministry of Social Welfare there are 11,000 disabled children in Armenia.

Wednesday (December 3) in Yerevan's Hayordats (Sons of Armenia) House of Malatia-Sebastia community the International Day of Disabled was marked. Thirty five disabled children participating in the event representing different communities of the capital.

Many of their friends cheered them and greeted them with applause from the hall, but still it took a lot of courage to get on the stage.

"I'm thinking whether I'll be able to perform in front of an audience some day," said one young blind man who was embarrassed to give his name. "Probably not, since I'm not strong enough. The feeling of inferiority is smothering me."

Julietta Hovhannisyan from "Jah" non-governmental organization for disabled children's parents says they want to show people that these children, too, have a right to sit in a hall next to healthy ones.

"Today is their holiday and they themselves are being celebrated by their disabled friends," she says.

The last rehearsal is taking place behind the stage. Eliza Hovhannisyan is helping her friend Tamara to put on make up. Tamara is walking with difficulty; she is going to recite on the stage. She is so excited she can hardly talk. Her only wish is that there are less disabled children in the world and people treat them better.

Not far from them children from N18 boarding school who have problems with hearing are rehearsing a dance item. Head of the group Hasmik Satyan is talking to them through sign language.

"Today is our holiday, and we are not ashamed of that. With our dance we prove that we're not any different from others," they explain through interpretation.

Since 1992, December 3 has been the International Day of Disabled. According to the Ministry of Social Welfare today there are 115,000 disabled in Armenia and 11,000 are younger than 18.

"The idea of the event is saying 'no' to pity," says Lida Mnatsakanyan from Vahan NGO for disabled. "Today there are parents who are afraid to take children out of their homes. But the time has come. They have to be treated and accepted the way they are."

Secretary of Council for the Disabled, MP Artak Arakelyan was greeted with applause when he announced that beginning January 1, some television programs in Armenia will include sign language, according to a new law.

The event was organized by the Council for the Disabled at the National Assembly, Nerses Mets (Nerses the Great) union for disabled and eight NGOs.

Children from N18 boarding school who have problems with hearing dance with the help of signing interpreter Hasmik Satyan.

"Today all the NGOs dealing with problems of disabled are included in that council. The purpose is to restore their trampled rights," says the president of Nerses Mets Ruben Vardanyan.

Such NGOs in Armenia were created to protect the rights of disabled. According to Vardanyan, first these were organizations that received and distributed aid, but there was a need for attention from the state.

"Finally, today the NGO-state-National Assembly connection does exist and it means that we are being taken into account. Many incomplete laws concerning the disabled are being changed today and new ones that will help to improve the lives of these people, are now being added to the legislation," explains Vardanyan.

The adopting of new law was taken by the disabled as gift of the government in honor of their day. At the end of the event participants also received some gifts - 2000 drams rewards, sweets and clothes.


According to Agnes
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