Role model: Meet Peter Kichaski from Sofia (Bulgary)

I was born in Vidin, Bulgaria in 1989. I graduated from the Natural Sciences and Maths high-school in the town and am now studying Law at New Bulgarian University Sofia. I’m an active fighter for the rights of persons with disabilities in Bulgaria. I’ve represented many cases before the Bulgarian Protection Against Discrimination Commission. These have mostly been in relation to accessibility and of course there were some larger cases which received a great deal of public attention. I’m involved in the CIL Sofia network and have been very active in events organised by the Centre. I have dealt with business for practically the of my whole life– I’m in the metal recycling industry. I’m engaged and I adore my whole family.

• What is your personal experience of disability?

I’m an active citizen and my impairment has never stopped me from doing whatever I want. Actually I look at it the way I look at my hair color – it is not that big of a deal it’s just something about me. Maybe this outlook is the product of a lot of effort – mine and my family’s. I’ve always had this impairment and I’ve always attended mainstream education: mainstream kindergarten, mainstream elementary school, mainstream high-school and mainstream university. This I owe to my parents who have never looked at me as different – for them I’m as normal as everybody else and this has shaped my positive outlook. I’ve been using different forms of personal assistance for the past 4 or 5 years now. Unfortunately in Bulgaria there is no satisfactory service provision and I’ve always paid my assistants from my own pocket, but this has made me the independent person I am now.

• How did you discover the Independent Living movement?

My friend Mitko Nikolov, who is also a disability activist from Vidin, ran into me one day and he suggested that we have a quick talk and that was it. When he introduced me to the idea of independent living I became obsessed by it. If I have to be exact, I’ve always lived independently but I didn’t know that this way of living had a name. For me it was as natural as the air we breathe.

• Is there an area of Independent Living that you are especially interested in?

I can’t divide Independent Living into all of its key components, but if I have to say something, the first thing that pops into my mind is accessibility. This is a major issue in Bulgaria and without it we are lost. The other thing is personal assistance. I don’t believe anything can ever change without personal assistance.

• Who has influenced you the most, and how?

Within the Independent Living movement I can honestly say that the person who has influenced me the most is Kapka Panayotova. Of course people like Adolf Ratzka and Kalle Könkkölä have influenced me too but if it wasn’t for Kapka I probably wouldn’t be as involved in the IL movement as I am now.

• Of what personal achievement are you most proud?

I can’t point to anything in particular – I’m proud of everything that I’ve managed to do that has made a difference.

• Do you have a favourite saying or proverb?

I very much like the Roman “Non progredi, est regredi” which stands roughly for “If you don’t progress, you regress”. Led by this I’m always pushing forwards and I’m always trying to better myself.

• What motivates you to get up in the morning?

I get up easily in the mornings: I sleep like a baby because I know that the previous day I’ve done as much as I can to make a difference.If you do that you’ll sleep peacefully and youwon’t need any particular motivation to get up – you just will.

• What do you like to do when you’re not working?

I’m not sure what “not working” stands for but I enjoy some quality family/friends time.

• If you could invite anyone to a dinner party, who would be your ideal guests?

My family and friends – I would like to have more time for all of them. It’s not all work after all but I often forget this.

• What advice would you give to young adults with a disability?

I would say to them not to give up. There’s simply no reason for that. You aren’t any different from the others – you’re just a person and you have your own dreams and ambitions and you don’t have to give up on them. You’re just a regular person like everybody else on the planet. Firstly you are a person, secondly there comes all the skills you have – you are a lawyer or a scientist or a painter, artist and so on. After all of this comes the physical differences – height, weight, color of eyes/skin/hair and only then comes the impairment. And never, and I mean never, let anyone mock you for your disability – people don’t mock the color of people’s eyes and they shouldn’t do it about your disability.

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