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Ukraine: New Application Maps Accessibility of Urban Public Spaces

July 10, 2021

Ukrainian activists with Dostupno.UA, a disability rights group, recently launched an updated interactive map with accessibility information about over 800 urban locations around the country.

According to the activists, an average of 27-55% inhabitants of cities in Ukraine are differently abled or have reduced mobility. These include people with disabilities, parents with small children, the elderly, pregnant persons, and those recovering from various injuries. However, Dostupno.UA finds that “only 4% of urban infrastructure in Ukraine is fully accessible” – something they are working to change.

The map was initially developed in 2020, but the 2021 version, available as a smartphone application for Android and iPhone, covers over 30 cities, including the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. There is also a desktop version of the map on the Dostupno.UA website.

Users can check how accessible a particular location is for “differently abled persons and those with limited mobility”. Locations documented on the map include urban public spaces such as parks, administrative and municipal buildings, restaurants and cafes, and entertainment spaces such as cinemas and music venues.

The Dostupno.UA map classifies a venue's accessibility as either “green” (accessible), “orange” (somewhat accessible) or “red” (inaccessible), based on the research conducted by the activists. It also allows users to filter locations by key features, such as how accessible a venue's entrance is (i.e., door width or the presence of a ramp) and whether it has accessible bathrooms, a Braille menu suitable for those with visual impairments, or baby-changing facilities. Spaces are also rated on being child-friendly, pet-friendly and wheelchair-friendly.

Screenshot from the desktop version of the map showing accessibility parameters for a Kyiv food market, such as its entrance, bathrooms and other facilities. Image from Dostupno.UA.

Above image: Screenshot from the desktop version of the map showing accessibility parameters for a Kyiv food market, such as its entrance, bathrooms and other facilities. Image from Dostupno.UA.

Other useful features of the app allow users to navigate to a chosen venue by creating a suitable route to the destination, based on a person's needs and the level of accessibility they require. Users can also propose their own venues to be added to the map, helping to make their city's accessibility profile more comprehensive.

Dmytro Shchebetyuk, the founder of Dostupno.UA, who himself uses a wheelchair, says the map isn't only for people with disabilities.

"All of us require accessibility at certain points in our lives. Parents with baby strollers, elderly persons, differently abled and pregnant people. Even if you're simply traveling with a heavy suitcase, your mobility will be limited by obstacles. Most of us will grow old and will need all of this accessibility as well."

In 2019, Ukraine adopted new state construction standards that require owners of public spaces and entertainment venues to allocate space to wheelchair users. Hospitality venues must also cater to the needs of patrons with disabilities or limited mobility, while employers are required to provide inclusive workplaces to differently abled employees. However, even local authorities sometimes violate these standards: for instance, in Kyiv the renovation of several public transport stop shelters in 2019 resulted in making them entirely inaccessible for those with limited mobility.

Shchebetyuk, who has been working with Dostupno.UA since 2015 to make Ukrainian society more inclusive and accessible, says the purpose of the app is to motivate the venue owners to make their establishments more accessible. But he also hopes the app inspires the users to get out of their homes. “The more differently abled people there are on the streets, the more demand there is for accessible infrastructure,” he says.

“Olya on the move,” an ad for the Dostupno.UA map application portraying a typical urban user enjoying public spaces and venues despite their limited mobility."

Source: Global Voices