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Russia to strengthen disabled peoples' rights

Published time: April 10, 2012 18:43
Edited time: April 10, 2012 22:43

Russia to strengthen disabled peoples' rights (RIA Novosti / Vladimir Astapkovich)

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Life for Russia's 15 million people with disabilities could soon become easier, as the country wants to ratify a UN convention defending their rights and interests.

­President Medvedev sent the convention for ratification in the State Duma.

"The Convention sets a trend for development of society,” said head of the State Duma labor committee, Mikhail Terentyev. “It suggests eliminating barriers in society, which surround every disabled person."

The UN adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in December 2006.  It is now signed by 153 countries, and 109 countries have ratified it.

The convention focuses on non-discrimination, full and effective participation and inclusion in society, respect for differences, and accessibility.

Wheelchair of faith

It has been 13 years since Roman Kolpakov’s accident, but the scars and emotions are still fresh. His life literally changed in the blink of an eye. The doctors, who knew the severity of his situation, told his mother before they broke the news to Roman himself.

“My mother brought the priest to the hospital to counsel me,” Kolpakov recalled. “We talked about my paralyses, God and religion and the more I listened, I was getting more religious. I started to think about my life and why I got into this position in the first place. Before the car accident I was an adrenalin junkie, I think God stopped me and I started thinking about my life.”

When Roman came back from the hospital, he knew he had to earn money to support himself – a problem many disabled people face as there are fewer opportunities for them in the job market. He learned how to design web sites and started a dating site for religious people. That is not, however, where he met his wife Natasha.

“We met on the Orthodox forum I was working on five years ago,” Roman told RT. “Natasha was a volunteer for a disabled girl. We talked for a long time before we started dating and going to church together. We got married a year and half ago.”

Religion plays a huge role in Roman and Natasha’s life. As devout Orthodox Christians, they wanted to be able to take pilgrims to monasteries and churches. Roman realized he was not the only one with this desire and soon found a new venture to pursue, a travel taxi service for the disabled to holy places.

“I want to help those people who have no opportunity to use public transport to get to holy places like the churches and monasteries, that’s why I am looking for sponsors who will help us with this,” Roman told RT. “We need to pay for gas and drivers. Religious people are in need of visiting places where they can talk to God, to participate in Mass. It’s vital. Here we get God’s grace, here we get spiritual energy for our life. After visiting such place you feel renewed.”

Roman and his story of courage will continue to inspire those who want to help people with disability. In the end, it is up to us – a community, media, government – to help fight the stigma of people with disabilities.