A meeting with Ms Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission on Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship was held today at the Central Military Club. The meeting was announced as open to all citizens and promised to bring a ray of hope in the very complicated political situation in Bulgaria in recent days.
Of course, we, a group of people with disabilities – Kapka Panayotova, Diliana Deneva, Vanya Pandieva, Mariana Harizanova, Borislav Ivanov, Zivodar Zhishev and Nina Zhisheva, decided that the invitation was valid for us too and at the appointed hour, me, Kapka and Diliana, as most impatient, we stood before the Military Club. Even at the entrance it turned out that the inaccessibility was obvious – we were met by several black marble steps which brought us back to reality.
The organizers of the event, however, were prepared for such situations and immediately between them, me and Dilianka popped up a few two-meter smiling lads and convinced us that they had thought of everything, were fully prepared. They had such happy expressions on their faces – this time we didn’t surprise them with our presence and our “whims” for accessibility, that my heart did not let me doubt the situation. The size of these guys just shrunk me and Diliana to a colon, we felt squeezed up and down and away from the crowd of people who wanted to enter the meeting. We tried to say that we were not alone, that we were still waiting for our friends and colleagues in wheelchairs, but the slender boys assured us that everything was fine and we had to go up because it was slow and there was no time. All of our defenses also fell because some other guards had shaken the crowd that had gathered in front of the entrance and formed a trellis through which we had to pass. They mounted each one of us on an extremely slow and unstable machine, with our feet pointing up towards the sky and the head below knee level. I personally agreed to stay in this crazy position until I was picked up on the second floor, because when I realized the absurdity of the situation, it was too late to move back to my own cart. The slow and long movement, the line of people on either side of me, who were looking at me with sympathy or turning their heads in discomfort, my lavish body swaying on the machine, all of that made me feel like I was carried in my coffin.
After all, it was only me, Diliana and Kapka who ended up meeting Mrs. Reding, because the rest were in electric wheelchairs and the machine couldn’t take them. And they were offered to be moved to a “kosher” wheelchair that only fits on their machine, but our friends refused. And they did it not out of gluttony, not out of whims, but because of their personal human dignity. Because you cannot invite guests to a place where they cannot enter like all other people – without assistance.
That is why we appeal to all institutions, parties, organizations, associations, governmental and non-governmental structures:
DON’T ORGANIZE PUBLIC MEETINGS, DEBATES, OR ANY OTHER EVENTS IN THE CENTRAL MILITARY CLUB! IT’S A REALLY BEAUTIFUL BUILDING, PART OF OUR NATIONAL AND ARCHITECTURAL PROUD, BUT IT’S NOT ACCESSIBLE FOR DISABLED PEOPLE. Because a building is accessible, ONLY when a disabled person can enter and leave it without obstacles and without the need of assistance.
In the future, such events could be organized in many other fully accessible venues with different price ranges.
– Hilton Hotel, Sheraton Hotel, Radison Hotel – with the highest prices,
– Crystal Palace Hotel, Saint Sofia Hotel – with average high prices and
– Rodina Hotel, Shipka Hotel – low prices.
The list is long, but it can be even longer if you wish. Others can be found on the Internet which have complied with accessibility requirements and have not washed their hands with excuses such as “this building is not repairable for accessibility” or “the architecture does not allow it” because when there is a desire and reasonable thought in the right direction, anything is possible.