The Network of the Committees for Human Rights in Serbia CHRIS would like to express its gratitude to all the good people who have unselfishly participated and supported the project for years and who helped us learn in depth about the many faceted barrier problem of our fellow citizens, about our institutions and their buildings, about the public space, about us and our lives, about who we are today and if we like it…
Now, we give you some of the angles of looking into the issue, once we start looking, we’ll start thinking – and then, there is hope we will all do our share to become the society we would be a bit more proud of.
When we think of disabilities, we tend to think of people in wheelchairs and physical disabilities – the visible ones. But disabilities can also be non-visible. We can’t always tell who has a disability. The broad range of disabilities also includes vision disabilities, deafness or being hard of hearing, intellectual or developmental, learning, and mental health disabilities.
We usually first think of the obvious barriers, such as lack of ramped entrances for people who use wheelchairs, lack of interpreters or captioning for people with hearing impairments, lack of Brailed, digital or recorded copies of printed material for people who have visual impairments.
Other barriers – frequently less obvious – can be even more limiting for efforts on the part of people with disabilities to live independently, and they result from people’s misunderstandings and prejudices about disability. These barriers result in low expectations about things people with disabilities can achieve.
Disability + Barriers = Dependent Living + Dissatisfaction
Because of all these barriers, people with disabilities experience poorer health, lower educational achievements, fewer economic opportunities and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities. So, people with disabilities not only have to deal with the effects of their disabling conditions, but they also have to deal with all these barriers; otherwise, they are likely to be limited to a life of dependency and low personal satisfaction.
What is independent living?
Essentially, it is living, working and playing just like everyone else – having opportunities to make decisions that affect one’s life, able to pursue activities of one’s own choosing – limited only in the same ways that one’s neighbors who are not disabled are limited.
Removing barriers by ramping a curb, widening an entrance door, installing visual alarms, or designating an accessible parking space is often essential to ensure equal opportunity for people with disabilities. It is a legally binding obligation for the authorities.
However, we need to be open for a broader picture – the state authorities and institutions are just a fraction of our community. There are public and private entities that are also obliged to provide equal access to their services, goods, and activities by providing accessible facilities.
And, eventually, there are …. all of us that can respect differences and ensure equality for all by removing barriers.