How to evacuate a person with a disability: difficulties, emotions, contacts
The state hardly regulates the evacuation of people with disabilities. Many people with various disabilities or injuries cannot leave dangerous cities and towns alone and sometimes can't get the help of relatives or friends.
Where can a person with a disability turn to help to evacuate? What do you need if you want to help with the evacuation, and what non-obvious problems do refugees with disabilities face? Rubryka explains in this article.
What is the problem?
"Grandma is bedridden and heavy"
"I'll have a challenging adventure next week and need your help. We will try to take my grandma after the stroke and my aunt out of Kherson. My grandma is bedridden and heavy (weight). I'll ask you for help with location on the route (ground floor or freight elevator), the help of people who could take it out/bring her in," Anastasia Melnychenko asked for help on Facebook in April.
Shortly after the occupation of Kherson began, her grandmother suffered a stroke. The woman was hospitalized, but the correct diagnosis was made only three days after hospitalization. Then she was discharged, arguing that they couldn't rehabilitate the patient. So the woman remained in the occupied city without the necessary help and was immobilized by illness.
People with musculoskeletal, visual, and hearing impairments and mental disabilities remain in cities that are temporarily under occupation and in areas that are constantly under fire. Their evacuation often requires specially equipped or at least private transport, assistance with belongings, and numerous further issues. There are thousands of such stories.
Dmytro Shchebetiuk, the leader and founder of Dostupno.UA, says it is technically challenging to evacuate a person with a disability. It's not just for those who can't walk.
"Sometimes it's difficult because it's a long road. Long trips are hard to bear, especially for people with disabilities. In some places, we find some resting points to move on. But the road is challenging.
Plus, if a person is in a car, it's easier. We with Dostupno.UA accompanied people by car, and it's easier at least because they could take as many things and hygiene products as needed. For such people, the only issue is creating a route, finding a place to spend the night, and finding housing.
The state organized the evacuation, but it wasn't large enough for all cities. At the same time, it was difficult for parents with young children with disabilities and mental disorders to leave. When everyone left, they couldn't do it because there were many people on the train, and these children need more space because they can't stand such conditions psychologically," says Dmytro.
State-run evacuation trains or buses are often not designed for people with disabilities (a bedridden person or a person in a wheelchair cannot board a train or bus on their own). Health problems make the long road even harder. So the question is, what to do?
What is the solution?
Activists, volunteers, and the international community
Anastasia Melnychenko, whose grandmother became bedridden because of a stroke, couldn't evacuate a relative on her own. She was abroad with the children, so she immediately started looking for community or volunteer organizations that could help.
"I was looking for a way to transport her from Kropyvnytskyi to Rivne. I didn't find one from Kherson. Nobody took a bedridden person. We were lucky that my aunt's acquaintance went to Kropyvnytskyi, and he was alone. So he agreed to take my grandmother and aunt. They designed improvised stretchers and transported her in the backseat.
The greatest difficulty was spending the night because my grandmother is quite heavy, and it isn't easy to take her out and bring her in. We came up with the idea that we would come and call an ambulance, say, my grandmother is after a stroke. It worked; she was hospitalized in Kropyvnytskyi. She was after the stroke, without help. That's why I decided to take her out of the occupied city," says Anastasia.
After her grandmother got to the hospital, she found volunteers who transported a sick woman from Kropyvnytskyi to Rivne. The Razom for Ukraine Foundation is engaged in humanitarian aid and first aid kits. Anastasia says they put her grandmother in the back seat, loaded the necessary cargo, and went to the west of Ukraine.
At the time of our conversation, Anastasia's grandmother was already undergoing rehabilitation at the stroke center in Rivne, where she was able to sit and move her arm again in 14 days.
What is the problem?
There are additional difficulties in evacuating abroad
Dmytro Shchebetiuk says that three months after the full-scale invasion, a moment has come when it's essential to keep those who were evacuated safely because returning to the East and South of Ukraine, unfortunately, is still dangerous. Despite this, people who find it more challenging to adapt to new conditions already want to go home.
It is also often much more difficult for people with disabilities to decide to go. First, their homes are tailored to their needs. Second, emotional and social factors come into play.
"There is a big mental barrier when it comes to going to another country because people think nobody cares about them here in Ukraine, and nobody would need them abroad. They are afraid of getting into conditions that won't suit them. People are afraid of the unknown," says Dmytro Shchebetiuk.
He also mentions several other vital factors that people with disabilities face abroad. These are finding a home where they will be physically comfortable (for example, a person in a wheelchair needs a ramp and ground floor or elevator), finding the necessary rehabilitation or treatment, and adapting to a new environment where they may have no relatives.
What is the solution?
Always look for opportunities
"There are initiatives that help people with visual and motor impairments. Those are Vostok SOS and Palianytsia. From the beginning, we also started to get involved in the information campaigns and then pave routes to Sweden after partnering with local organizations.
We also employ a volunteer in Germany and work with him through other local organizations. We have already sent many people for rehabilitation there. Still, it is easier for such organizations to work when a person is purposeful and knows what they want," Dmytro Shchebetiuk explains.
As for rehabilitation, Dmytro notes that for many, evacuation abroad is also a chance to receive specific treatment that was not available in Ukraine. To do this, you need to contact local NGOs and clinics directly, but it is crucial to remind them about yourself constantly.
If we talk about socialization, here we must return to the decision described above; at the stage of organizing the departure, it's better to turn to organizations that form groups from Ukraine. It opens up the opportunity to travel with other Ukrainians and continue to keep in touch with them.
There are many difficulties, but it is safer to go for it than remain in occupation or under shelling. After all, for many people with disabilities, bomb shelters are inaccessible; they cannot escape and cannot hide.
"We must understand that people with disabilities endanger not only themselves but also their loved ones by staying in dangerous cities. Besides their main tasks, the relatives still need to take care of them and worry about them," says Dmytro.
How does it work?
Or who to contact
It's better to look for more local initiatives depending on where you are or the person with a disability you want to help. However, we will share with you the contacts of the largest and most productive public organizations that can help:
- Dzherelo Training and Rehabilitation Center specializes in helping children and is located in Lviv, but during the war, it also evacuates people with disabilities abroad.
- Vidpovidalni (Associations of Responsible Citizens) works in various fields, including assistance to people with disabilities in accommodation abroad;
- Active Rehabilitation Group helps people with bone marrow injuries and evacuation during the war;
- Vostok SOS provides comprehensive assistance to people affected by the war;
- Dostupno.UA helps people with disabilities to evacuate and settle abroad.