Although Georgia has made significant strides on its developmental path over the last decade, and its ambitions to fully join Western bodies such as NATO and the European Union no longer seem a far-fetched dream, there are sectors of society that have not benefited from the full attention and aid given to other areas.
The life of disabled people anywhere is, of course, unimaginably hard, but in Georgia, matters are even more complicated. The country’s economy has barely been strong enough to support its able-bodied population, let alone those with special needs. After Georgia signed the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2014, progress has been made, and the situation is not as dire as it once was; disabled access to buildings and public spaces is becoming increasingly common, but significant challenges remain.
To this end, the Asian Development Bank – which has invested in a plethora of projects throughout Georgia – has launched its Livable Cities Investment Program, designed to make Georgian cities more accessible and inclusive. In partnership with the Accessible Tourism Center PARSA, the project will entail the construction and installation of apparatus to help disabled people both living and visiting Georgia, such as disabled toilets, access ramps, and lifts for wheelchairs.
Tamar Makharashvili of the Accessible Tourism Center PARSA explained that the vision of the project was grounded in the ideas of Universal Design, an architectural ethos established by disabled architect Ronald Mace. Universal Design adheres to seven governing principles, all of which are purposed to make everyday life simple and low effort for disabled people. Tamar informed the ISET community of PARSA’s plans to make all major destinations in Georgia accessible; previous efforts have largely been centered on the capital.
The presentation by PARSA and the ADB left no doubt that there remains a mountain still to climb in spreading awareness of the challenges disabled people face, as well as in the implementation of apparatus that can alleviate them. However, the audience was left with no doubt that matters will improve, especially due to initiatives such as these.
ISET would like to thank the ADB and the Accessible Tourism Center PARSA for taking the time to visit the institute and explain their project.