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How to Work with Disabled People: Knowledge for Employees of Cultural Institutions

News 4 August 2020

Olga and Yevgen Svet, specialists in accessibility and inclusion, have conducted a public online lecture on the psychology of visually impaired people and a seminar-consultation on guidance of blind people. This way the museum team continues to work on the project “Touch the Memory”.

One of the global tasks of the Holodomor Museum in 2020 is to ensure accessibility. With the support of the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation, we are implementing two projects: “Touch the Memory”, during which we will adapt educational classes and excursions for blind people, and “Accessible site — accessible museum” to adapt our museum site accordingly to theinternational standards.

As part of the “Touch of Memory” project, a public online lecture entitled “Psychology of People with Visual Impairments” was held. Theacher for visually impaired and accessibility specialist Olga Svet explained what typhlopsychology is, what it studies, why it is important to understand its basics, and what the peculiarities of the psychology of visually impaired people, feelings and types of perception are.

Yevgen Svet held a practical seminar-consultation, where he told about the rules of guiding blind people indoors (including in the museum), on the street, in public transport, etc. Museum staff tried on the roles of guides and guided, and practically trained to conduct tours for visually impaired visitors.

We asked Yevgen Svet, what accessibility is, what are the stereotypes and problems related to the topic of accessibility in Ukraine.

  • ABOUT ACCESSIBILITY

“Accessibility is a simple thing that concerns every person, every institution. We do not single out any target group (people with disabilities) and places where such people can appear most often. Anyone once in their life may find themselves in the category of people who are called low mobility groups (LMG), i.e. need accessibility.

LMG is a category of people who at a particular time have difficulty in moving aroung the space, navigating, receiving information or services, communication with the environment and so on. The category of LMG includes people with disabilities, pregnant women, parents with young children, children under six, the elderly, people with temporary health problems, people with heavy suitcases, women on high heels, people who for some reason are not oriented in the space, people in a state of stress, alcohol intoxication, etc. That is, it can be argued that up to 90% of the population of Ukraine can belong to the LMG category.

The basis of accessibility is the physical ability of each user of goods, services or institutions to enter the premises, as well as to have physical security and comfort while receiving these services. There should be convenient access to information, the ability to navigate normally in space, goods, services. Accessibility applies to any business process, institution that offers goods or services, government agencies, medical, social, educational institutions, transportation facilities, and so on. It is impossible to sell the goods if there is no opportunity to get to the premises, buy products and have information about them. If we do not provide accessibility to every institution, then we do not provide the opportunity for our services to be purchased.”

  • ABOUT THE STEREOTYPES:

“There are many groups of stereotypes. Today we discussed two of them. The first group is the stereotypes of relatively healthy people about people with disabilities. The core of this stereotype is that people with disabilities are a small group that needs special conditions and needs to be pitied or admired. ‘They’ are not like ‘us’, ‘they’ are special and need something special.

The second group of stereotypes is the stereotypes of some people with disabilities about relatively healthy people. The main idea is that someone owes someone something (‘everyone else owes me something because I have a certain peculiarity’). This is a very dangerous stereotype, because cooperation and interaction relations must be built on equal terms, and only then will it be true inclusion. Inclusion is not the responsibility of healthy people, inclusion is our shared responsibility. People with disabilities also have to work for inclusion.”

  • ABOUT ACCESSIBILITY IN UKRAINE

“Accessibility in Ukraine needs to be developed systematically. If you allocate funds for something narrowly focused, there will be no result. In my opinion, when individual grants are allocated and inclusion is created, it remains artificial, does not work and is not inclusion at all. In the best case, it rermains narrow accessibility. In the worst case, inclusion is completely forgotten after the end of the project. It is very good that the public sector is dealing with this issue now, but there should be public policy, not grants, but permanent funding. Although a lot of money is being allocated to certain projects now, in addition to money, awareness and motivation are needed. Going back to the beginning, everyone is really interested in inclusion.”

Summaries of all lectures organized by our museum team appear in the “Accessibility” section of the museum website, some of them are posted in video format on the Youtube channel.