Supported living of people with
disabilities in Russia
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The project is co-financed by the EU

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Today is the International Day of Disabled Persons!

There are lots of misconceptions and prejudice of normal people against disability. Where are they from and why so resistant?

Our life is based on the accumulated knowledge and experience. What`s happening when we face something new that we don`t have enough information about? We`re trying to come up with our own explanation based on the view of the world we have, scraps of knowledge, conversation we accidently heard. That’s how another myth occurred. It could be funny sometimes, in other cases – horrifying, as it generates prejudice, shame, fear. To fight myths is possible and necessary - with information. Let`s try to demythologize some of them.

Myth: People with mental disability can`t feel, can`t understand.

Fact: All the people have feelings with no exception. People with mental disability are feeling sad and happy just like the others, they love and hate, feel safe or worry. Sometimes they express emotions not quite adequately in our opinion, for instance, too roughly, loudly, but always frankly and sincere. The form of feelings expression is learnt and taught in and by society. We simply need to let this people in our society.

Myth: Invalids can`t be equal to the others as they`re not alike.

Fact: Whom they not alike to? We`re all very different. We`re changing even through all our life. Whereas we were capable of reading books with small print at youth, it`s impossible to do for most of us without glasses at a mature age. However we don`t feel unequal because of it. It`s cool that there are the ones not like the others! There are lots of talented poets, musician, artists among them after all. They suffer from misunderstanding and unacceptance by ordinary people. Lines of the poem wrote by an unknown foreigner, man with disability, are just about it:

I don`t have legs,

But I can feel,

I can`t see,

But I`m thinking all the time,

And though I`m deaf,

I want to chat,

Why people think I`m useless, thoughtless and incapable of talking,

When I`m capable just like any other,

To think of our World.

Myth: People with disability require expensive and high-tech subsidiary equipment and service. It lies on shoulders of tax-payers as a heavy burden.

Fact: Quite not all people with disabilities need such equipment or any other special device. Generally expensive equipment is not supported by government, thus these expenses are not by account of tax-payers. Very often people with disabilities buy high-priced devices and service by their own means, means of their relatives or benefactors. Such acquisitions make quality of life of people with disabilities higher. And urge towards high standards of life is typical for either people with disabilities or people without it.

Myth: People with disabilities ought to live in boarding schools and rehabilitation centers under constant supervision.

Fact: Unfortunately this myth has created Russian boarding system which is more likely a hospital support and supervision than home where people live and receive nursing and medical service depending on their needs. Till now huge boarding schools exist where there is always lack of staff, where people live in rooms with large population for years, where all their life is built on regime of establishment where is nothing to be occupied with and inhabitants are seldom let go out of boarding school. In fact people even with severe disability can and should live in their own apartment receiving nursing and patronage service or at flats of accompanied living. It simply requires society to make urban environment suitable for every citizen without exception.

Myth:  Invalids are dangerous and aggressive.

Fact: Any of us have “aggression” in one way or another. The question is only which forms it takes and what it is like. We could be aggressive when someone attempt on our values, our ideas. We defend and stand for our place in the Sun and consider it`s normal. Ignoring and disregarding people with disabilities is provoking them to be impulsive and aggressive. And somehow we think their aggression in such cases is abnormal. By aggressive attack of the others they aim at independence, being beloved. Aggressive behavior may be a consequence of disorder in communicative activity of people with disabilities. Ignorance and disregard and fear of society do not give opportunity to develop these people`s communicative abilities. To learn to communicate well being isolated from people, as it often happens with people with disabilities, is impossible. Passage from the poem of Saint Petersburg`s poet Alexander Kuvalkin have hope that we will turn to people with disabilities and take them to mutual circle:

- We are invalids. It hurts.

But peopleAnd this warms up.

- And a man in the street?

- Well, he`ll see things with years

- And stop being blind

- And this warms up.

 

Let us be not indifferent to the problems of people with disabilities and make their life less distinguishable from the life of ordinary people. For this purpose, in first, you should listen to the invalids. This is described in general in extracts from “Precept for disabled” comprised by an unknown author, a man with disability, from the brochure “Together we are strong”, projected report about meeting of Germans and Russians, people with restricted abilities from Hamburg and St. Petersburg:

- Help me to learn what I want to learn;

- You should take me seriously even if I`m not always able to keep step with you;

- Do not try to change my behavior. Be patient and listen.

- I have the right for self-determination as an independent person;

- You should talk not about me but with me.

 

Compiler: Manevskaya Marina, candidate of biological science, geneticist, coordinator of the EU project SPb BOO “Perspektivy”, 22.11.2014, Saint Petersburg

 

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