Olena Zelenska: Accessibility and equal opportunities are needed not for "specific categories" - they are needed for everyone
Ukraine's First Lady, Olena Zelenska, participated in the National Forum on the Rights of People with Disabilities, held in Kyiv on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
During the forum, panel discussions were conducted on three key themes: the perception of disability, employment for people with disabilities, and reconstruction and accessibility. Speakers included representatives from government authorities, NGOs, the media, and the business sector.
"We must understand that for people with disabilities, challenges extend beyond receiving a prosthesis. In everyday life, they just begin: with public transport, inconvenient entrances, and inaccessible shelters," said Olena Zelenska during her speech.
She noted that a recent sociological study commissioned by the "League of the Strong" demonstrated that people with disabilities still consider the main discriminatory issues to be the ability to move freely outside their homes, the inability to access public spaces, and discrimination in job search and employment.
"People need not only our right words and correct emotions but also the right actions," emphasized the President's wife.
The First Lady mentioned that the "Accessibility Guide," the first Ukrainian guide to proper communication, now includes sections not only about communication. Since the beginning of the war, it answers questions about what to do in emergencies. Additionally, in the special section "People with War Experience. Dignity. Interaction," there will be advice, including on employment and education. This year, the guide created as part of Olena Zelenska's initiative, "Guide to Inclusive Events," will be presented. The guide will be published as a separate book and integrated into the "Accessibility Guide" website. The guide will explain how to make any events, from meetings to exhibitions, accessible.
"But, in fact, this project is not about events but about how ready event organizers and attendees are to see people with disabilities at them and what we are willing to do for this," emphasized the President's wife.
She greeted businesses from the "Business Without Barriers" community, which create conditions for the employment and service of people with disabilities: "This means that people with hearing impairments, for example, can conveniently shop in a supermarket and work there comfortably. A veteran can use inclusive taxis or other transportation or work there. It is especially effective when private initiatives complement government ones. For example, this year, a network of driving schools for people with disabilities became available throughout Ukraine. This is what accessibility is—it's not just in space but in opportunities."
The forum concluded with the signing of a resolution, in which the parties declared a shared vision of the desired outcome and the necessary steps to achieve it.
"Our common task is not to turn accessibility into an oasis. The entire country should become accessible. All its options—career, educational, domestic, and entertainment. We all experience reduced mobility at times. We all experience mental exhaustion, fatigue, and powerlessness. Therefore, equal opportunities are needed not for someone, not for 'specific categories,' but for all of us," emphasized the first lady.
The forum was organized thanks to a grant from the Civil Society Organizations (CSO) Support program under the financial support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Commonwealth Development Office of the United Kingdom. The program is implemented by Crown Agents in partnership with International Alert and in cooperation with Crown Agents in Ukraine.