04/30/2012, 00.00

Disabled, banned from visiting Moscow aquarium

by Nina Achmatova
Revealed by the mother of one of the students: "Other visitors do not like to see people with disabilities." Architectural barriers and prejudices still make life impossible for about 13 million disabled people in Russia.

moscow (AsiaNews) - The mother of an autistic child has revealed that an aquarium in Moscow has refused entry to a group of children with autism for the fact that "visitors do not like to see people with disabilities." The episode has been reported by some of the major Russian newspapers, like The Moscow Times and the site Newsru.com. Yana Walderberg wrote about the incident on her Facebook page on April 27, when a school for autistic children tried to organize a trip for students to the aquarium of the "Rio" shopping center in the Russian capital, when the teacher called the administration to confirm the details and explained that the young visitors were autistic, the clerk said he had to consult with the Director. The latter said that the group could not go to the aquarium because the other customers "do not like to see people with disabilities, because it makes them feel uncomfortable and this is not acceptable," said the woman reporting the exact words of the Director, he then offered the group a visit of the aquarium during a day of closure for cleaning.

The story made the rounds of social networks in Russia, marking up comments such as "Shame, all children are loved!" and proposals to launch a boycott campaign against the aquarium.

This is not the first incident of discrimination against persons with disabilities. Last week, the airline Air Vladivostik refused boarding to a disabled teenager because "his condition did not allow him to fly," said the flight officers. The judicial authorities have opened an investigation.

It is estimated that the population of disabled people in Russia is around 13 million individuals. Most are trapped inside their own homes because of architectural barriers in the cities and strong prejudices against them, as demonstrated by lawyers and the media. A report of the Office of the Attorney General, in 2011, presented to the Federation Council (the upper house of Russian parliament) noted that buildings and vehicles in Russia are not adequately equipped for the disabled.

Particularly severe, even at the legislative level, the problem of mentally disabled people in custody. Inadequate laws to protect interests and rights of this slice of society are often exploited to deprive an individual of their right to decide where and with whom to live and how to manage their money. As demonstrated by some NGOs, people with mental disabilities are often denied the right to work, exacerbating the link between disability and poverty. They are even deprived of their right to vote, causing political invisibility.


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