Through civic activism, Vitalii Slipcenco from Tiraspol transforms his environment into an accessible one for people with disabilities
More and more access ramps are installed in Tiraspol allowing people with disabilities to move around the city and to enter buildings without impediments.
For more than two years, more and more access ramps are installed in Tiraspol allowing people with disabilities, parents with child strollers, and other persons to move around the city and to enter buildings without impediments. Vitalii Slipcenco is a promoter of accessibility of public spaces. And all this because people become more aware of their right to an accessible environment and claim it, making their voices heard.
Vitalii Slipcenco is a promoter of accessibility of public spaces. For more than 20 years, Vitalii has been using a wheelchair. He remained immobilized after an unsuccessful dive into the Nistru River, which has injured his vertebral column. He was 18 years old. At that time, he has come to terms with his condition and became self-isolated. He was spending summer time at his family’s villa and winters - within the limits of the apartment in which he lived. He was avoiding any interaction with people and he was shy to move around in the wheelchair.
And all this until one day, when he saw the world with other eyes: “It was necessary for a long period to pass for me to acknowledge that the disability I have does not impede me to have an active lifestyle. After several summers spent in the tent at the villa, I met some guys with locomotory disabilities, who were attending the local tennis club. They had a healthy lifestyle, practiced sports and were to a certain extent integrated in the society. And I wanted to become like them.”
Vitalii started training at the same tennis club with his new friends, participating in local and regional competitions and networking with people: “I met people who were promoting human rights. I started participating in public events and interacting with duty-bearers.”
All these have culminated with his direct involvement in the decision-making processes: “I got enrolled at the faculty and I became active in civic life. I got remarked and today I am member of the Tiraspol city construction commission and provide clearance for newly constructed buildings. If somebody would have told me seven years ago that I would get here, I would not have believed it,” tells Vitalii Slipcenco.
Being member of this commission, Vitalii takes care for all the new buildings to be accessible for persons with disabilities. As a result of his involvement, several socially important buildings were equipped with access ramps, among which – the city polyclinic, the Drama Theater and the Arts Gallery from Tiraspol.
“Thanks to the access ramp, installed at the entrance into the Arts Gallery, I had the opportunity to access the building and see an exhibition for the first time over the last years,” said Dumitru Ceceli, one of Vitalii’s friends, who is also using a wheelchair. “Because of my disability, I could not leave the house over the last four years. But I want to get out and I want to be an active member of the society. I am not so old, to stay in the house the whole day and watch TV. Upon Vitalii’s initiative, the polling section nearby my house was equipped with an access ramp, hence I will not have to ask any more for the mobile ballot box to come to me, but I will be able to go and vote like everybody else”, added Dumitru Ceceli.
Along with the position in the city commission, Vitalii is an active member of the Platform for Sustainable (Community) Development, composed of a few NGOs and initiative groups from both banks of the Nistru River, who are promoting human rights. The platform was created with the support of the United Nations and Sweden.
As a member of the Platform for Sustainable (Community) Development, Vitalii attended a series of trainings organized by the UN and learned more about his rights and how to promote them. With the support provided by UN and Sweden, he participated in a study visit to Sweden: “When I came back, I delivered presentations for people in charge at the local level and I told them about the European experience in the area of accessibility. I succeeded to contribute to the improvement of the regulations and the standards for roads’ construction, and now road workers have to take them into account when repairing roads and sidewalks in the city,” told Vitalii.
Vitalii says that it is not simple at all to promote an accessible environment in Tiraspol. Some buildings cannot be adjusted because of the way they were built. Other buildings need significant financial investments, which are not available, so far. What is really important is for people to acknowledge the rights they have and to claim them.
“You cannot fight for your rights, if you cannot get out of the house. To be able to claim your rights, you should be active, and tell people around you that you exist, that you want to be part of the society and that you want to move freely in the city,” concludes Vitalii Slipcenco.
Author: Ludmila BOGHEANU
Photos: Marin ILIUȚ