Unless you’ve been living under a rock since the start of the year, you’re very likely familiar with the Winter Olympics being held in Sochi this year.
But what you may not be aware of is the heated history that Russia has had in terms to accommodating those with disabilities. It was an issue that was seen here and there during events in Sochi but have origins from elsewhere in the country’s history.
It began in 1980 when the Summer Olympic Games were held in Moscow. During this time, the then Soviet Union would not play host to the Paralympics, despite the fact that the two events are typically held at the same location. Their reasoning was that “there are no invalids in the USSR.” Of course, this is not true. Recent polling indicates that at least 9% of the population has some sort of disability.
The lack of wheelchair accessible ramps and elevators are a constant obstacle throughout the country. Many disabled individuals stay confined to their homes for days on end because they have no way of getting out.
Many saw Sochi as a prime opportunity for Russia to mend any fences that might have been broken during the 80s when they made such a stance. Unfortunately, much of that same mindset was still present. But athletes arrived at the location only to find that there were still many hindrances.
Wheelchair accessible transportation was severely lacking. Doorways were not wide enough to allow the passage of larger wheelchairs. Other doors and their frames were raised from the floor in most venues. Wheelchair access to buildings that were handicap accessible were often hard to find or in poor condition.
While Russia is certainly not the only country in the world that is not doing enough to accommodate its handicapped population or visitor with disabilities, the events at Sochi make it clear that they have much work to do.