Russia Looks for Ways to End Isolation, Invisibility of Disabled
Vera Samykina is an A student in all subjects who just completed ninth grade, a significant marker in Russian education when some students bow out to pursue a trade or a technical education. But Samykina, 17, is determined to finish high school in two years and then pursue a university degree in English.
She has never been inside a regular classroom, however. Most of her education occurs in her cramped Moscow apartment. Samykina has cerebral palsy, and until she was 15, tutors came to her house three times a week for a couple of hours to instruct her in her various subjects. For the past two years, she has been taught over the Internet by specialists in each subject.
"There is no other way," Samykina said. "I would like to get out more often, but it's very difficult."
People with disabilities are literally almost invisible in Russia, isolated in homes, special schools and sheltered workshops. It is a rare event to see a person in a wheelchair or a blind person or someone with an intellectual disability such as Down syndrome out and about on the streets of a Russian city.
Halfhearted attempts to encourage the employment of the disabled by setting quotas for businesses have faltered. Most employers preferred to pay the low fines for failing to meet quotas rather than actually hire disabled people, according to advocates for people with disabilities.