Volunteers create post-Sochi ‘Accessibility map’
More than 21,000 town and city venues included on a Russian “Accessibility map”
Internet users, “Sochi 2014” volunteers, together with representatives from disabled organisations have mapped around 21,000 venues on an “Accessibility map” as part of a project undertaken during the year. These venues are situated in more than 600 towns and population areas across Russia.
The “Accessibility map” is a joint project involving the “Sochi 2014” organising committee and the charity for support to the disabled “One Country”, and was launched on the eve of the Russian Paralympic Games. Its aim is to create the most comprehensive database of city venues which have a barrier-free environment, including places where disabled people can take part in sports. The project has been helped to a large extent by a special smartphone app created immediately prior to the Sochi Games by “Samsung”, in collaboration with “One Country”. The app is available in both Russian and English.
Within a year, more than 21,000 venues have placed on the map, helped greatly initially thanks to input from volunteers. Mikhail Terentev, a State Duma representative, Chairman of the Russian Society for the Disabled and President of “One Country”, explained that “At the outset of this project, we gave thought to ways in which ideas of accessibility and creating a barrier-free environment could be brought to the public’s attention, e.g. the provision of ramps and access facilities for deaf and blind people. In consultation with the Sochi organising committee, we suggested including sessions on educating volunteers on issues around creating a barrier-free environment as part of their training for the Sochi Games. As a result, the “Accessibility map” became a tool for a crash-course in providing volunteers with an understanding of the concept of a barrier-free environment”.
Terentev explained that there were plans to further develop the project through competitions among users and public disability organisations, adding. “Of course, the map provides information for the disabled on the accessibility of venues, but the more I think about it, the more I feel it should be used to change people’s attitudes towards the disabled and so promote an understanding of the meaning of a barrier-free environment. I’d urge people to put as many accessible venues on the map as possible to show disabled people that they can feel free in our society”.
Oleg Rysev, First Deputy of the Russian Society for the Disabled, believes that this is not just a map, but also the sign of a civilised society. Our Society will do its utmost to ensure that the “Accessibility map” is not just a way of helping people who have difficulty in obtaining essential services, but also that such services are of good quality, accessible, and stand up to the highest scrutiny”, Rysev added.
The project organisers regard the “Accessibility map” not just as a unique reference guide to a barrier-free environment in Russia, but also as a legacy for the Sochi Games. Samsung intends to launch an updated version of its smartphone app within the next 3 months. According to Sergey Pevnev, Director of Corporate Relations and Social Projects at Samsung’s main office of the Russian Commonwealth of Independent States “The app will run on a new platform and interface and will be quicker and easier to use. Our intention is to increase the number of volunteers and venues included on the map”.
In September, the project organisers launched a competition to “Take the Paralympic Torch”, in which network users were invited to add information on accessible venues for disabled people on the map. This could be done via the project’s website, or by using the smartphone app. The competition was divided into 2 categories: “Most active” (for adding the highest number of venues) and “Most creative” (contestants who wrote stories or submitted unusual photographs of the added venues).
The competition winners were Pavel Kochkarev from Naberezhnye Chelny who added 409 venues to the map, Antonina Samoilova from Samara (107) and Alexander Filippoviz from St Petersburg (527). Pavel Kochkarev said “I found out about this project through Facebook. I decided to take part because I knew of many such venues and wanted to share them with everybody. There are undoubtedly many more venues out there that are waiting to be added to the map if only more people were prepared to help. This is an essential project and involves not only people in wheelchairs, but also those who want to help the rest of the community.
The winners received a Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 app, together with a Sochi 2014 Paralympic Torch baton, on 15 December.
Author: Yulia Vyatkina