Integrating the Disabled into Ukrainian Society
People with disabilities in Ukraine continue to face lack of access to public spaces due to physical barriers, but also a stigma that marginalizes them in society. They remain confined to their small apartments and, in many cases, need a wheelchair and caretaker to help them move around. They remain invisible to a society that doesn’t provide proper care or attention to this population.
Through the Medical Commodities Distribution project, IRD is providing people with disabilities the means to more fully participate in Ukrainian community and public life. With funding from the US Department of State’s (DOS) Office of Humanitarian Assistance for Europe and Eurasia, and in partnership with the Latter-day Saint Charities, IRD delivered 870 new indoor and outdoor wheelchairs for disabled people residing in Crimea and the Lugansk oblast of Ukraine, DOS assistance target areas. “There is a great need for mobility devices to get people moving and give them some independence. I am pleased to really see the true impact our joint efforts have on the lives of the recipients,” said Pavel Snapkov, head of the Department of Rehabilitation branch of Simferopol University.
By working with local NGOs and welfare departments, IRD ensures proper distribution, fitting, and maintenance of wheelchairs. “The proper type of wheelchair is absolutely critical. A wheelchair that does not fit properly can cause even more harm when used over the long term,” said Tatyana Maksimova from Bereginya, an NGO for disabled women.
The Medical Commodities Distribution project has not only improved mobility for 900 people with physical disabilities, it has also improved access to health, educational, and economic opportunities. Before receiving her wheelchair, Maria Svidchenko, 20, was carried by her father on his shoulders whenever she left the house. Today, she is able to go outside and interact with others. “Your assistance is so important for us that I cannot even express it in words. As long as you only demand – not give – there is no real life in you. So thank you for your generosity!” said Maria’s mother.
Through its health programs in Ukraine, DOS is helping expand access to healthcare, improve sanitary and hygiene infrastructure for orphans and the elderly, and meet the basic needs of vulnerable people. IRD works with local communities to distribute medical equipment and supplies for disabled people, including wheelchairs, special equipment, and health and hygiene kits. Humanitarian commodities donated by IRD through local governmental and nongovernmental institutions target the most vulnerable populations in three regions of Ukraine: Crimea, Donetsk, and Lugansk oblasts.
Distribution of medical and non-medical commodities in the Caucasus and Ukraine is carried out by IRD with the support of its generous in-kind donors and the US Department of State.