Examining Disability, Mobility and Road Risk in Belarus
In Belarus road traffic crashes are a leading cause of disability. It is forecast that if no measures are taken, the number of road traffic crashes will increase and by 2030 will have become the seventh leading cause of death and disability. In addition, people with disabilities are also more vulnerable on the roads, as highlighted in the WHO World Report on Disability “people with disabilities are at a higher risk of non-fatal unintentional injury from road traffic crashes”, meaning that, as well as preventing road crashes from occurring in the first place, more care and understanding needs to be taken to address the specific requirements of disabled people as road users to ensure their safety and rights are met.
In 2016, to address this issue, EASST Expertise’s Irina Potyakina surveyed over 1000 disabled people and their carers across Belarus to identify the needs, desires, and problems they face as drivers, pedestrians, and public transport users. This survey built on the work that had already been completed by EAAST partners, the Automobile Club of Moldova. In Moldova, a similar survey led to the influential Disability, Mobility and Road Risk in Moldova report.
Like the work in Moldova, the Belarus survey results uncovered a range of issues highlighted below:
Problems disabled people face as drivers
The survey found that one of the key problems faced by people with disabilities is gaining the right to drive at all. The survey found that 54% of people with congenital disabilities have faced problems getting a driving license due to restrictions set by the Ministry of Health.
For those who do drive, parking was reported as a significant barrier. Many complained of a lack of parking spaces designated for disabled drivers and a lack of parking enforcement.
One of the main concerns reported by over 60% of respondents was driver behaviour and the attitudes of other road users. Respondents reported incidents such as other drivers cutting across their cars, which are marked with a disabled persons badge, as well as derogatory remarks from passers-by.
Problems disabled people face as pedestrians
As pedestrians, 90% of those surveyed with locomotor impairments reported difficulties in using facilities for disabled people at walk-through tunnels and bus stations as well as highlighting issues with the general road environment, such as the absence of ramps near steps and the height of kerbs. Of those respondents with visual impairments, 50% reported problems with the high number of cars that park off road and at the roadside.
Social attitudes were again perceived as one of the problems faced by disabled pedestrians, with 30% of those with sensory impairments reporting that even if they ask for help they rarely get assistance.
Problems disabled people face as passengers
The accessibility of public transport is a crucial issue for people with disabilities. The survey revealed that at least 78% of those with locomotor impairments had faced problems with getting in and out of public transport vehicles and taxis, as very few buses and trolleybuses have ramps or grab-handles to help with accessibility, while the passages between seats in many rote taxis are too narrow for wheelchairs. Trams were considered the least accessible form of public transport with underground trains deemed the most accessible.
Sixty-seven per cent of those surveyed said that when using public transport, seats reserved for disabled people were often occupied.
In addition, of those respondents with visual impairments, 22% reported problems with indistinct announcements on board buses, trolleybuses and trams. While 18% of those with hearing difficulties reported feeling disoriented when faced with inactive electronic displays.
As a result of these survey findings the BKA have set out the following recommendations related to road infrastructure, public transport accessibility, driver behaviour and public awareness to improve mobility and reduce the road risk of disabled road users.
- Installation of ramps at the entrances to hospitals, shops, universities, and other public places.
- Adjusting traffic lights to allow disabled people enough time to cross the road, as well as making all traffic lights sound assisted.
- Areas where a lot of deaf or blind people reside should have special signs warning drivers to be careful and slow down.
- Expansion of car parks, designating more spaces for disabled drivers and tightening enforcement to prevent others parking in them.
- Introducing tactile and colour-contrasting pavements to assist blind and visually impaired pedestrians.
- Applying good quality paint on roads, making zebra crossings more visible for people with visual impairments.
- Tactile and lower kerbs at crossing points for people with locomotor and visual difficulties.
Public Transport accessibility:
- Equipping public transport vehicles with ramps and grab-handles as well as installing lifts at all underground stations.
- Increasing the number of seats specially designated for disabled people.
- Increasing of the frequency of public transport routes to reduce overcrowding on public transport.
- Ensuring clear announcements are made for all stops and that electronic displays are always in working condition.
- Increasing the number of social taxis in circulation that are especially designated for disabled people.
Driver behaviour and public awareness:
- Driver awareness campaigns to build better understanding of the challenges faced by disabled pedestrians, drivers, and passengers.
- Roads should be regularly checked for their compliance with disabled people’s needs.
- Broadcast social videos on public transport and on TV to raise awareness and encourage people to consider their actions.
Click the images below to enlarge
The survey and report highlighted the need for improving road infrastructure and public transport accessibility. It showed an urgent need to change social attitudes towards disabled people in Belarus. As an immediate response, the project produced a public awareness video demonstrating the daily struggles faced by disabled people on the roads and encouraging people to show more consideration to vulnerable road users. A longer-term strategy will look at road infrastructure and transport accessibility.
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