Independent living and accessibility are rights of persons with disabilities every society has to provide, and the state has to enable and support them. This is the message that was sent from the event on the occasion of the European Independent Living Day and the Global Accessibility Awareness Day, which was held in Podgorica on 15 May 2019.

„Life in a home or in an institution, segregated life and grouping of persons with disabilities is much more expensive for the society than independent living. Independent living is not a caprice, neither has a fight for its reality developed as a result of ungratefulness and selfishness of persons with disabilities. It arose and exists as a real need to have a dignified, decent life.“, said Milenko Vojičić, president of the Assembly of the Association of Youth with Disabilities of Montenegro (AYDM) in his speech. He highlighted that, for independent living, it is necessary to have accessible environment, transportation, possibility to exchange information, appropriate orthopedic aids, assistive technologies and very often, a service of personal assistance

„Inaccessible environment, buildings, transportation, services, information, communication and technologies are a result of the approach of the society towards people with disabilities, which estimates us as passive, helpless, or less important for the society. We are not asking to demolish the environment, we are just asking for the built environment to be ours, as it is for all of you, or all of those who are not with us here today.“ said Vojičić.

At the end, he said that we are asking for stuff made by humans to be not in favor of the majority and that everything designed and made by people for people has to be accessible, useful for every member of the society, that it can be tailored for human diversity, and the most important – to enable freedom of movement for every person in any environment (living one, on the street, in the public transportation and public buildings).

„People who are our friends may have different standards, but needs of all of us are the same“, said Minister of Sustainable Development and Tourism Pavle Radulović.

„There are good accessibility standards, but we saw that even in places which are architecturally adjusted, due to irresponsible behaviour of individuals we are preventing access to our friends“, he said.

“We are incorporating the rules and regulations which enable persons with disabilities to have a dignified life, but I invite all Montenegrin citizens to change their opinion, because basic accessibility depends on them”, said minister Radulović, while talking about barriers they had during simulation.

„The Ministry of Transport and Maritime Affairs deals with problems of accessibility from two aspects: through provision of conditions for accessible transportation, while another aspect is related to vehicles“, said the Minister of Transport and Maritime Affairs Osman Nurković.

He highlighted positive legislation in the area of road traffic, including parts related to signage of vehicles used by persons with disabilities.

„Adaptation of vehicles is a more complex task which depends on the policies at the national and local level in the area of public transportation. In that sense, there is a need to have a lot of activities and common actions to achieve the goals“, said Nurković.

„The Capital City of Podgorica has a responsible social policy and continuously develops new social services for its citizens. In addition to funds we allocated for this, the amount of 15,000€ was allocated for accessibility. However, it is not enough and will never be, and there is a significant space for improvement“ said deputy Mayor Dr Slađana Vujačić.

She pointed out that, today, participants in the simulation had a chance to see and hear what are the barriers people with disabilities in the Capital City face, and she invited all institutions and organizations to collaborate and jointly improve the position of persons with disabilities.

She said that everything that has been done and things that will be done in future are not only a matter of good will, but the duty and responsibility of all, and invited citizens to work on the change of their approach and behavior, which will result in accessibility and independence for persons with disabilities.

About 100 participants took part in the event, including: UNDP Office in Montenegro, Parliament of Montenegro, political parties, Office for European Integration, ministries, Capital city of Podgorica, National Employment Agency, Center for Professional Rehabilitation, resource centers, Paralympic Committee, numerous NGOs.

The facilitator on the event was Saša Komarica, first-year student of the Secondary Vocational School Sergije Stanić.

The event was organized by AYDM within the project „EU4ME“, which is financed by the European Union and implemented by UNDP, as a measure of the Action plan for 2019 of the Strategy for Informing the Public about Montenegro’s EU Accession.

Photos from the event are available here.