Solution 18:15 25 Sep 2023

Dnipro driving school for people with disabilities: the opportunity to drive gives an incentive in life

Driving schools for people with disabilities recently opened in five cities of Ukraine. This is a project of the Ministry of Internal Affairs as part of Without Barriers, the national initiative of the first lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska.

The first students have already completed their studies in Dnipro, Kyiv, Kamianets-Podilskyi, Lviv, and Kropyvnytskyi. What was necessary to launch this educational program, and what challenges do project leaders face? The correspondent of Rubryka attended a practical lesson at the Dnipro driving school.

The story of Halyna Mandra from Kharkiv

Instead of pedals below, there are levers on both sides of the steering wheel. Gas, brakes, and clutch — everything is within reach of Halyna Mandra from Kharkiv. "There is nothing difficult about driving, but, of course, it's scary. I still don't have time to notice everything when there is a lot of traffic around or we go through a large crossroad. I need at least two to three lessons to gain experience," says Mandra.

Автошколи для людей з інвалідністю

Halyna Mandra drives a training car.

Mandra moved to Dnipro immediately after the start of the full-scale invasion of Russia in February 2022. Mandra has been disabled since birth and takes care of her 81-year-old mother. It was scary to stay in Kharkiv, which suffered from shelling all the time. With frequent electricity cuts, which was often absent, Mandra would not be able to use an elevator to get down from the apartment or up to it. "From the first day of the war, they asked an acquaintance of mine to take me and my mother out of Kharkiv because how can you stay without help during the war?" Mandra recalls.

She took only the most necessary things with her — personal belongings and one of the paintings she made.

Автошколи для людей з інвалідністю

Mandra's painting, which she took out of Kharkiv. Photo from the heroine's archive.

"I have a talent that I never knew about. The desire to paint appeared suddenly. I do it not according to the rules of artists but according to my feelings. The picture with peaches was in front of my eyes when I was leaving, so I grabbed it," the Kharkiv resident shared with Rubryka.

Already in Dnipro, together with her mother, Mandra settled in a private house. Due to her disability, Mandra moves with the help of an electric bike, or on crutches, but only for short distances, because her body gets tired quickly.

"My electric bike is light and weighs a little more than 11 kilograms. It used to fold, but now, it doesn't because it's old. I got the bicycle seat replaced with a regular one because sitting on it for a long time was painful," says Mandra.

Автошколи для людей з інвалідністю

Halyna Mandra on her bike.

"I got fired up with the idea of driving"

"I have a lot of needs. For example, even to go to the doctor, I need to call at least two taxis. One for me and another for my bike if the taxi's trunk is already full. One taxi costs ₴200 on average, two would make it ₴400. With disability pensions, it is tough to pull it off," says Mandra.

People with disabilities can use a social taxi, but the number of trips is limited. Mandra has been waiting in line to receive a car from the state for several years. However, the house owner where she lives now has an old car, which he would allow Mandra to drive after adjustment.

Автошколи для людей з інвалідністю

Halyna Mandra shows the equipment of the training machine.

"I got excited about the idea of getting behind the wheel. On the internet, I found a private school in Dnipro that teaches people with disabilities, but its director said that if I don't learn to drive in ten practical lessons, I will have to pay," Mandra told Rubryka.

Mandra was looking for other options and came across news about a driving school for people with disabilities conducted by Dnipro State University of Internal Affairs. To start studying, she had to pass a medical examination, and after that, the theoretical portion of the training began.

"I passed the theoretical training and the exam the first time! The school employees helped in the service center — they showed what to do and how to do it: take a coupon, pay for services, and fill out the documents correctly," says the student.

Now, Mandra is mastering driving. She goes a few stops on a minibus from the house where she lives, and then a driving instructor picks her up in a car. After each lesson, he brings her to the bus stop, from where Mandra goes home by public transport.

"It's difficult. It would be easier if they drove me home by bike or car. I wouldn't be so tired. But I need to study, so there are no other options," says Mandra.

Mandra successfully passed the practical test and received a driver's license. Another student, Sofia Hrubova, also succeeded in her studies.

Автошколи для людей з інвалідністю

Halyna Mandra shows her driver's license.

"Strongly motivated to study"

"After the first practice class, the emotions of our students went off the scale. They wanted more and more. For people with disabilities, the opportunity to drive gives them an incentive in life," says Tetyana Astakhova, the teacher at the driving school. She has been teaching people about driving safety for 17 years, and this year, she started working with people with disabilities.

Автошколи для людей з інвалідністю

Tetyana Astakhova in the classroom of the driving school.

The theoretical course consists of 64 hours of study over four weeks. Everything was online, and Astakhova also contacted her students if they needed deeper explanations about the topics. The teacher says her students strongly desire to learn traffic rules. "When a person with a disability comes here, it is a joy for them. Our students are highly motivated to study. Because they move around in wheelchairs, they have a sense of speed behind the wheel, thanks to which, getting into a car is even a little easier for people with disabilities than for people who have never driven before," says the teacher.

In other respects, according to Astakhova, the classes were no different: "I like to communicate with students so that a person understands everything I say. I like to ask additional questions. If I see that the student has not understood something, we analyze each question additionally."

Автошколи для людей з інвалідністю

Educational materials of the driving school.

"We are ready to engage in retraining"

Dnipro State University of Internal Affairs has been running a driving school for people with disabilities since the fall of 2022. To start it, the institution had to pass accreditation.

"The ramps at the university were ready a long time ago. Therefore, we quickly prepared the classroom, and the rector provided a car that was converted to manual steering. In February, we successfully passed the accreditation and launched," says Andrii Zhbanchyk, associate professor of the university.

Recruitment began in March in a test mode. Zhbanchyk says people who called to sign up did not always know how to proceed. "Persons with disabilities did not understand how it is generally done, where to get a certificate for training, how to pass a commission before enrolling in a driving school. However, we helped them every step of the way," says the professor.

Автошколи для людей з інвалідністю

Andriy Zhbanchyk talks about the driving school. Photo: Vidkytyi

Currently, the driving school has one car with a manual transmission for training people with disabilities. Another one is being prepared for students — with an automatic transmission. With two cars, the school will be able to teach up to 20 people per month.

The cost of studying at a driving school is ₴6,000. After students obtain a driver's license, they can be compensated for the course's cost by the Fund for Social Protection of Persons with Disabilities.

Автошколи для людей з інвалідністю

Halyna Mandra near the training machine on her bike.

Currently, driving schools for people with disabilities operate in Dnipro, Kyiv, Kamianets-Podilskyi, Kropyvnytskyi, and Lviv. You can register or get advice on the website.

The school is ready to engage in retraining and recertification for people who had a driver's license and later became disabled. Zhbanchyk summarizes that they are waiting for soldierswho now have a disability, but want to drive.


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