Sadly for Ukraine, coming out of the Soviet Union with many old Soviet buildings, most of the country is not handicap accessible and there are no easy fixes to retrofit some of these old flats and buildings. While I do believe Ukraine wants to change in a positive way for people with special needs, with the war ongoing in the East, it is not the top priority for most average Ukrainians. Even sadder, is that Ukraine can no longer blame the hand it was dealt, because new buildings continue to lack handicap accessibility, even when it is currently the law that all new construction should be accessible. These photos are proof!
This summer Pastor Kostya and Sasha Chorney have again borrowed wheelchairs from God’s Hidden Treasures to go and test how accessible different areas of the city are for people who use wheelchairs. In these photos, they are in a brand new area of town, where they’ve just put in a bunch of new stores, restaurants, and a government assistance building, and not one of them is accessible. Every building has stairs in front with no ramp. This is 2020, and Ukraine is not doing better, it is not building a brighter future for people with disablities.
I’m thankful to Kostya and Sasha and those with whom they are working to raise awareness and effect change in our city Bila Tserkva. One of the ways they are trying to make a difference is bring awareness to handicap parking spaces. There is a lack of caring and respect that people show when they park in handicap spaces as well as a lack of enforcement from police in ticketing people who do this.
At the one of the major grocery stores in town, I arrived with Sergei, young man who works in our office and uses a wheelchair, to find all the handicap parking spaces taken, the majority of which by people who did not have a legal right to park there. After we did some filming on how handicap accessible the store and the area around it was, Sasha called the police to report people parking in the handicap spaces. When the police showed up 30 minutes later, people quickly got out of those parking spaces. The police wrote two tickets and gave close to 20 verbal warnings yet people continued to pull into the handicap parking spots with the cops right there.
With little handicap accessiblity in the major stores, and almost no handicap accessiblity in most apartment buildings and homes, you can see how challenging life can be for people in wheelchairs. It is so easy to be isolated. It is nearly impossible to be independent, and support yourself. Just look what happened to one of these used wheelchairs after just two hours of checking the handicap accessibility in our city!
Every person in a wheelchair, every person with special needs, is a treasure of infinite value to our loving God. God’s Hidden Treasures is continuing to reach out and provide help to those who are isolated and struggling in Ukraine because of their disability. We do this by providing mobility aids, by hosting camps for children with special needs, by our picnic in the park for the disabled, through our church, by doing dozens of home visits every month, make hundreds of phone calls, and so much more.
Obviously with the COVID-19 outbreak, we were not able to have our camps and picnics this summer. We hope for a chance for camps in the fall. Please be praying for God’s Hidden Treasures, and for activists like Kostya and Sasha, as we look to make a positive difference and fight for the future of people with special needs and disabilities in Ukraine.