I am passionate about promoting inclusion, advocating for independent living and human rights. I believe my experience as a lead disability activist in Armenia for 17 years, the head of Unison, the organization which was the first to promote independent living in Armenia and establish the first CIL in Yerevan will be useful for ENIL. I would like to become a Board Member of ENIL where I can use my skills to help ENIL reach its objectives, make Europe more inclusive, promote the rights and secure opportunities for disabled people to live independently and in the community. Unlike most other disability activists in Armenia, I have an academic background in Human Rights: I hold a diploma on Human Rights of Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (Sweden). I have authored a number of publications on inclusion; I was also the Armenia Country Researcher of the International Disability Rights Monitor Regional Report of Europe 2007. Among the dozens of projects I have managed, I would like to mention the recent EU-funded international (Armenia-Georgia-Moldova) project aimed at promoting inclusive decision making processes and procedures in the 3 countries. After the successful implementation of the first phase of the project in 2016, it has now been renewed for another term.
I am the first non-EU citizen to serve as an ENIL Board member. I have an extensive experience in promoting Inclusion within the Civil Society Forum of Eastern Partnership (Armenia is one of 6 countries of the Partnership). In fact, I was the first person to raise the issue of the rights of disabled people on this platform. I have also been successful in promoting the rights of disabled people during my communications with high-level European decision-makers. For example, at the Yerevan meeting of civil society representatives with J.Barroso, the then President of the European Commission, I have raised the issue of inaccessibility of the European Commission premises in Yerevan. The issue was resolved within a month: a lift was constructed to make the building accessible.
Independent living and accessibility are my top priorities. Together with the Unison team, I have managed to make Yerevan more accessible (though it is still far from being a fully accessible city). Among these efforts, especially efficient were the special presentations delivered by me to the municipality departments on specific issues. For example, I delivered a presentation on various options of making the city buses accessible. Following this, many discussions were held. Ultimately, for the first time, the municipal budget of 2014 included funding for equipping the available buses with wheelchair platforms, providing special places for passengers using wheelchairs and grab bars/emergency buttons for disabled passengers. 25 city buses have been made accessible since then. It is also worth mentioning that due to our efforts (consultations, public actions, site visits, monitoring etc.), the accessibility of the Yerevan streets has dramatically increased during the last 3 years.
I also have experience in advocating for the implementation of the rights of disabled people on the UN level. Last year, during the first country review of Armenia by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD Committee), I coordinated the development of the List of Issues in relation to the Armenia Country Report by Armenian DPOs. Following this, I was selected to represent the Armenian DPO community during the 17th session (20 March – 12 April 2017, Geneva) of the UN CRPD Committee.