The full-scale war has posed new challenges to society. Ukrainians have faced both physical and invisible barriers of war. For example, the lack of ramps near shelters or information on how to get help for internally displaced persons. That is why the issue of barrier-free accessibility during the war is becoming more urgent.
"Even pre-war barrier-free environment projects have become painfully relevant. I think we all felt it for ourselves. First of all, we felt the physical barriers of war. Because each of us has personally faced evacuation this year, with the need to quickly get to a shelter. In addition, we all feel many invisible barriers. It can be a lack of information, inability to work or study, or economic uncertainty. So, barrier-free accessibility is as multifaceted as the barriers themselves. And it is definitely not a formality, a tribute to fashion, or a "bonus." It is much more than a single ramp at the entrance. This is a matter of quality of life and even survival," Olena Zelenska assures.
On February 15, a meeting of the Barrier-Free Environment Council was held with the participation of First Lady Olena Zelenska, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and representatives of ministries. They discussed the results of the 2021-2022 activities to implement the Strategy for Creating a Barrier-Free Environment in Ukraine and plans for 2023-2024.
During the meeting, the Barrier-Free Environment Council identified four priority areas for the next two years:
These are the things that people face every day and the areas that need to be given special attention to make people's lives more comfortable. In total, 472 barrier-free environment projects are planned for 2023-2024, involving 20 ministries.
In particular, the team of the Ministry of Digital Transformation will work on the development of the national platform Diia.Digital Education to make it accessible to every Ukrainian. It will include updated content for visually impaired users, educational courses with text captions and sign language, etc. Thus, everyone will have the opportunity to acquire new knowledge and skills with the subsequent opportunity to use them for employment.
"Barrier-free accessibility means creating a comfortable environment for everyone. The national platform Diia.Digital Education is already available to everyone, including people with disabilities, hearing and visual impairments. It will have an inclusive design and subtitles for educational series. The platform is expected to be significantly updated soon thanks to the Google.org Fellowship program, with reskilling/upskilling sections and opportunities for easier job search for IDPs, war veterans, older people, and people with limited mobility," comments Valeria Ionan, Deputy Minister of Digital Transformation for European Integration.
As a reminder, since December, the Diia portal has been offering a new section called Diia. Bezbariernist, which explains how to get public services in plain language. For example, how to find a job, get help for people with disabilities, where to apply for a housing subsidy or find housing in a new place after evacuation, etc.