Uralians with vision disabilities tried the accessibility of the city

Yekaterinburg hosted a regional competition in urban navigation among people with vision disabilities. Participants managed to complete the competition route with the help of white canes and navigation apps.
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According to the organizers, the competition was held in the framework of the preparation for the First World Congress for persons with disabilities, scheduled to take place in Fall 2017 in Yekaterinburg. One of the venues of the Congress – “The Inclusive City” – will be located in Plotinka, the city center. It is exactly this place that the participants of the competition were exploring.
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As per the rules of the competition, each participant was supposed to go through the established route independently. Additionally, one was supposed to tag and send their location marks, confirm the passage of the points with special apps, and snap pictures of certain places. Although each participant had an assigned volunteer to secure their safety, it was not allowed to depend on the volunteers’ help in passing through the route. Instead, the participants were encouraged to address their requests to passers-by: one’s ability to quickly and easily solicit help from strangers demonstrates their capacity to solve navigation issues in real time.

It was the first time when such a competition was organized during wintertime. The staff of WHITE CANE NGO say that there are its own benefits and disadvantages in winter navigation.

“Terrible ice is the largest difficulty. In this case, one has to walk with their knees slightly bent, just like in skating. Additionally, one should be dressed for slightly colder temperatures – the weather in Yekaterinburg is quite changeable. Yet there are some benefits to it too: on the roads covered with snow there are a lot of established paths that give you a sense of direction,” said the president of WHITE CANE NGO Oleg Kolpashchikov.
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Among the participants there were professionals who travel around Russia by themselves as well as beginners with a little experience of walking with a white cane. Evgeniy Vedernikov was the most experienced participant. Evgeniy is disabled from birth who is an active citizen with a desire to meet and communicate with new people. This desire motivated him to learn how to navigate independently with a white cane.
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“In my childhood, the main problem was that my parents were overprotective. However, I expressed my disagreement and defended my right to independent movement. By this present moment, I’ve traveled around a half of Russia. I travel by train, by bus, hitch-hiking. And I like it. My farthest destination point is Kiev”, shared Evgeniy.

Specialists from WHITE CANE NGO remarked that urban navigation with a white cane is the most important skill for a blind person. It is not hard to master it.

“One just needs to start and then exercise regularly. You have to make yourself go out. The main problem is motivation. And here you see people who are motivated, who have positive mindsets and are willing to move forward. Today they have successfully completed all the competition tasks with a little help of volunteers, tomorrow they’ll feel safe and secure on the streets of the city by themselves” – underlined Oleg Kolpashchikov.

The First World Congress for persons with disabilities will take place on September 7-10, 2017 in Yekaterinburg. We expect international and domestic 700 guests and delegates to attend the event. The registration for the Congress will be closed on June 30.