Disability advisory council created in Daugavpils

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A disability advisory council has been created by combining 11 organizations in Daugavpils to represent disabled residents both at the municipal and local level, according to Latvian Radio on February 5.

“We all have movement disabilities, that's either our priority, or also our pain. We're concerned about environmental accessibility, where and how it's adapted for us. The transport question - low floors, as well as access to homes,” said “Ilgas” Director Anna Stankeviča.

Her organization represents people with movement disabilities, but she says there are concerns for the blind as well. According to Daugavpils City Council Social Issues Commission Chair Helēna Soldatjonoka, each person's specific disabilities and state of health affect their needs.

“Those could be around 8,000 with disabilities living in the city; if around 90,000 residents live in Daugavpils, that's a pretty high percentage. The largest problem is environmental access, the opportunity to leave four walls,” said Soldatjonoka.

According to her the council will help their everyday issues to be heard both at the municipal government, as well as in Saeima or in larger disabled persons associations. Action has already been taken in regards to public transport, as well as tighter controls of disabled parking spaces. City Council Executive Director Igors Aleksejevs said the municipality already has their hand on the pulse.

“The first resolutions have already been received, the communal management company has been given the task of setting up additional sound traffic lights, the municipal police is already following up on who is ill-intentionally using disabled parking spaces,” said Aleksejevs.

He suggests further issues are concerned with the budget and city council members as a whole. This year the municipal budget plan includes money for the creation of a special swim area for people with movement disabilities on Stropu Lake.

As previously reported in 2015, the number of people with disabilities increased in the previous five years, Iveta Kancēna, a representative of the Latvian Health Ministry, told LETA. According to data by the State Medical Commission for the Assessment of Health Condition and Working Ability (VDEĀVK), there were 168,000 people with disabilities living in Latvia at the time, including almost 8,000 children.

In 2010, the number of people with disabilities was about 150,000. Each year the commission grants disabled status to about 55,000 people, of which 16,000 are pronounced disabled for the first time in their lives. Mostly people become disabled through disease. People in disability groups I and II are most often those stricken by mental illnesses, while group III status is granted mostly to people with movement impediments. Disability groups are ranked by severity, with I being the most severe and III the least.

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