Anna Mária Ballai
Association of Blind and Partially Sighted Persons in Csongrád county / Vakok és Gyengénlátók Csongrád Megyei Egyesülete; Szeged, Hungary
Lack or weakness in accessible transport (announcement system at bus stops or on-board, unavailability of personal assistance) are reasons why independent and safe travel still seems to be a distant goal for visually impaired persons. The bigger problem is that regulations exist, but application of them and awareness on both sides of persons with disabilities and service providers are weak, voices are silent, it must be changed by fact-based communication, education, integrated actions.
Counties of Hungary’s Southern Great Plain Region: Csongrád, Bács-Kiskun and Békés
One serious obstacle for visually impaired persons is participating equally in social life (work, study, sport, culture…) due to difficulties in access to public transportation (local, intercity). Laws are regulating the rights of disabled passengers and many initiatives came from people who are concerned to handle the problems, still we have to wait for substantial change to happen. Service-providing system has been transformed and quality of service has noticeably declined and most of visually impaired persons think that there is no point of raising their voice because decisions are done without their participation, the lack of right awareness on both sides (pwds and decision makers) resulted that attitudes towards law enforcement has weakened.
The essential requirement for independent life is accessible environment, a well-established protocol of personal assistance in public transportation and in institutions. Decision makers have prejudices that accessible environment is expensive and complicated, they don’t know much set of criteria; consequently, they refuse requests concerning accessibility. Visually impaired persons’ ability to advocate interests is quite weak, they don’t know the way to advocate their interests and rights: how and to whom they have to report problems; they are unsure having rights to stand out for themselves. We would like to educate as many persons as possible about transport regulations to explain the methods of advocacy, e.g. how to send a written complaint to a service provider.
The primary target group is the community of persons with visual impairments in the Southern Great Plain Region. Besides, we would like to involve persons in decision making chain and representatives of transport company to this process, finally, we guess that the entire society benefits as changes can be done by enforcement of rights and extend the possibility of articulation of human rights.
Testing process requires active participation and finally they have to articulate recommendations. This is again an active task during which participants can understand other viewpoints and need to practice cooperation. They thereby have opportunity to decrease their feeling of vulnerability by taking action to solve their problems.
Task1: informative presentation events (12) with experts on equal treatment, accessible environment, passenger rights and possibilities to aware on them for persons with disabilities;
Task2: testing accessibility (physical accessibility, equal chance in services, personal assistance) of bus terminals, railway stations (43 cases) and transport services by surveys of visually impaired testers (10);
Task3: evaluation of tests, recommendations for service-providers, decision makers; advices on physical and digital accessibility improvements, protocols of personal assistance and educating the employees to implement them, using video/clip for demonstration;
Task4: integration forum on awareness of rights of persons with disabilities with decision makers: possibilities, obstacles, solutions.
1. Increasing the awareness of visually impaired community in the region about their rights and empowering them to advocate their own interests.
2. Starting cooperation with the service-providers in order to be able to have influence on decisions that concern us. We think if they get to know the details of accessible environment improvement, they will understand that it is not something that costs a lot, rather it is about a change in attitude, acquisition of learnable skills and well-organized service.
3. Measurable outcome: the tests results that were carried out, the number of people who were involved, the suggestions to and agreements with the service-providers.
Persons with disabilities still live at the margin of society. Social inclusion is currently characterized by grandiloquent statements and well-established regulations rather than substantial change. The laws remains on paper and the opinion of the people who are concerned still cannot be heard in the circles of the decision makers. We would like to create a model by building up real cooperation based on facts through which disabled people will be able to participate in social life and it will be self-evident that decisions concerning the visually impaired can be made only by consulting them.
Visually impaired persons will not give up hope and will strive to change the situation because they feel their efforts are effective.
As blind/partially sighted members of association we are affected and face difficulties in law enforcement on daily basis. With well-sighted volunteers, we initiate collaborations to improve living conditions, for enforcement of rights, we are recognized organization with experiences in accessible public transport and related issues, passenger rights of persons with disabilities.
We are committed to enforce rights of persons with disabilities, but we are convinced that this will not improve on its own, actions are needed: a fact-based approach, constantly renewed cooperation with stakeholders and decision-makers. We are equal members of society but because of experiences the enforcement attitude needs to be strengthened, this can only be done on a professional basis, supported by facts.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
Project management and coordination (12 months, 2 persons): 12.500 EUR
Remuneration of testers (10 blind/partially sighted persons, 43 cases): 4.500 EUR
Informative presentation events on empowering the rights (12 events in 3 counties): 4.000 EUR
Integrated forum on passenger rights with decision makers: 600 EUR
Demonstration video film/clips: 2.300 EUR
Admin&office expenditures: 450 EUR
PR & communication of project results: 650 EUR