Armenia, where seeing a person in a wheelchair
in public is still a rare phenomenon, more than
50 disabled appeared in wheelchairs at polling
stations on February 19.
"Our organization and several other Non-Governmental
Organizations (NGO) provided vehicles for disabled,"
says Hakob Abramyan, head of Pyunic association
for disabled. "Unfortunately we did not have
so much recourses to help to all those who wished
to exercise their citizen's rights."
And Abrahamyan says more physically challenged
could have enjoyed their voting rights if authorities
"Long before the elections we applied to
several organizations as well as to the Central
Election Commission, asking them to provide vehicles,
but we never got any feedback," Abrahamyan
During Soviet times mobile precincts were taken
to the disabled homes, but that practice had gone
with the Soviet Union.
However Abrahamyan mentioned that even the limited
number of disabled who participated in elections
is progress, compared with the previous elections,
when not one NGO organized such action.
In all there are 110,000 disabled in Armenia
with mental and physical problems of different
stages, including veterans of Afghan and Karabagh
Pyunic, with headquarters near Hrazdan Stadium,
was founded after the 1988 earthquake in Armenia.
Though sparsely filled and in need of renovation,
the headquarters has enough space for all its
members, including a gym and workshops.
The name of the organization (which means phoenix,
like the mythical bird that rises from death)
was suggested by one of its disabled members and
became a symbol of hope for its 3,000 members.
"Society is changing towards disabled each
year," says Hayk Abrahamyan, who became a
member of Pyunic after he lost one leg in an accident.
"Before people stared at me or others for
example in the swimming pool, but now I can see
that people got used to seeing disabled. However,
there are few places that adapted to disabled
in the city. No café nor cinema has a special
place for wheelchairs or has elevators."
Today Hayk enjoys several kind of sport including
sailing and helps as a Pyunic volunteer.
And this year his wheelchair-bound comrades had
a chance to vote, an opportunity that will be
repeated in next Wednesday's Presidential Election
The outdated label of "invalid" commonly
is applied to the disabled in Armenia. Nearly
as bad, they say, is "people with special
They say they just need a little help to prove
the name of their organization.
And more would have chances to vote for the President
of their country.