Summing up the results of the year in the areas of her activity, First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska noted that our country began to develop a physical, economic and social barrier-free environment even before the full-scale Russian invasion.
In 2020, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed the Decree "On Ensuring the Creation of a Barrier-Free Environment in Ukraine", the National Barrier-Free Strategy, the Plan of Measures to Overcome Barriers were adopted, and the Barrier-Free Environment Council under the Cabinet of Ministers was established.
"By a barrier-free environment, we mean the absence of obstacles for development, education, work, comfortable life for a person of any gender, age, in any condition," Olena Zelenska reminded.
Inspired by the vision of a barrier-free society proposed by the wife of the Head of State, large employer companies united in the "Business without Barriers" community; together with public organizations, an electronic "Handbook of Barrier-Free Environment" was developed - the first guide to correct communication. Several infrastructure projects have been implemented to make spaces in communities and cultural institutions barrier-free. The First Lady emphasized that in wartime, a barrier-free environment does not just remain in focus, but has acquired a new, even greater meaning.
"Now more than ever before, it is obvious that all of us, regardless of age, gender, financial situation and health, need equal opportunities - to evacuate, go down to shelter, get important (often vital!) information in time, have access to services, get a job," emphasized Olena Zelenska.
She noted that with the beginning of the war, projects in the direction of "Barrier-Free Environment" did not stop. On the contrary, most of them have expanded, responding to new challenges.
The First Lady gave examples of what was done in 2022. Namely:
- "Handbook of Barrier-Free Environment" started speaking in Ukrainian sign language and received audio description. A special section "In wartime" has been launched with tips, instructions and algorithms for actions in new circumstances for families with children, the elderly, and people with disabilities. Two more sections have been created in the electronic "Handbook of Barrier-Free Environment": "Ethics of interaction in times of stress" (with self-help techniques and support for those around you) and "Ethics of interaction with different people". At the Frankfurt Book Fair, the printed "Handbook of Barrier-Free Environment" was presented - a unique multi-format publication with Braille font, blind impression, QR codes for sign language translation and audio description.
- The Ministry of Health introduces the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health into the Ukrainian health care system as a national classifier.
- A project was launched to integrate the topic of a barrier-free environment into the curriculum of the Kharkiv School of Architecture. It is implemented for the comprehensive understanding of a barrier-free environment, accessibility and universal design among students.
- The updated state construction regulations on the creation of barrier-free spaces in Ukraine, approved by the Ministry of Territories and Communities Development in 2021 ("Inclusiveness of buildings and structures") came into force. State building regulations have been updated taking into account the best European experience and set modern requirements for accessibility, which is in line with the National Strategy for a Barrier-Free Environment. State construction regulations for health care institutions have been submitted to the central authorities for approval.
- "Zhovten" cinema in the capital took a course towards barrier-free accessibility in order to become fully accessible to the audience.
- With the participation of representatives of ministries, civil society and the "Business without Barriers" community, a dialogue was held in the framework of the project on the adaptation of workplaces for people with disabilities, retraining, support and integration of combatants into the peaceful life and economy of the country.
- Together with Ukrzaliznytsia, a pilot project on adapting workplaces has been launched.
- The Ministry of Internal Affairs, together with experts, developed a project of a driving school for people with disabilities, which will enable them to study at specialized institutions, pass exams and obtain a driver's license. The implementation of the initiative is planned for 2023.
- A series of group trainings on the "Self-Help Plus" course from WHO was held for Ukrzaliznytsia employees and trainers of a number of members of the "Business without Barriers" community, which involves the acquisition of stress management skills. Trainers from "Ukrposhta" and "Oschadbank", and trainers of members of the "Business without Barriers" community took a course on self-help and primary support in crisis situations from experts of the Israel Trauma Coalition.
- Look to Speak – an Android application that enables people with speech and motor impairments to communicate using eye movements has become available in Ukrainian.
- Ukrzaliznytsia - the iron heroes, in spite of everything, keep the course for a barrier-free environment: the area of the Kyiv railway station has become accessible, barriers to employment are being removed, passengers representing groups with reduced mobility are accompanied by "station angels", a number of other transformations are being implemented that will become tangible in 2023.
- A new section "Diia. Barrier-Free" designed to simplify communication between people and the state is available on Diia portal of state services.
- The development of the Barrier-Free Solutions Album has been completed, all sections will be presented in January (taking into account the challenges of wartime). The Barrier-Free Solutions Album is a practical guide that recommends and illustrates with examples how an urban environment can be friendly to different users.
- The experts worked out and handed over recommendations to Boryspil International Airport for harmonizing the infrastructure of Terminal D with barrier-free principles.
- A plan of measures for 2023-2024 for the implementation of the National Strategy for a Barrier-Free Environment has been prepared, including the flagship projects of the ministries; public discussion of the document has been completed.
Olena Zelenska noted that the post-war reconstruction of the country should be based on barrier-free principles.
"It's not just a question of cities’ recovery - it's a question of people’s recovery. We all understand how many adults and children in our country have been injured and will use prostheses. But all citizens of our country should have equal access to a quality and decent life," the First Lady summed up.