A car is not a luxury but a necessity and means of transportation
The meaning of this phrase is of current interest for wheelchair users. For them a car is an important means of rehabilitation and social integration. Owning a car makes it possible for a wheelchair user to make plans for an independent life, to look for a decent job or education, to do sports and enjoy the life.
However it is not enough just to own a car. It is necessary to be able to drive it and to have an official document – a driver’s license.
This seems to be of no difficulty
In general there are no problems. Every city or town has a certain number of driver training centers where you can choose a schedule and a training vehicle.
The situation for wheelchair users is different. Until 1997 in Belarus there were driver training centers with manually-operated automobiles. There was at least one such center in each region. Every wheelchair user willing to take out a driver’s license could complete the training and obtain this document.
Today the state does not provide people with disabilities with manually-operated automobiles. That is why almost all the driver training centers that have been providing training for people with disabilities do not have manually-operated automobiles.
According to the PA “RAWU”, in Belarus there are only two driver training centers with manually-operated automobiles. The first is in Vileyka, the second is in Minsk.
The training is based on EI “Vileisky state vocational technical college”. The students are accommodated in the dormitory.
The driver training center has two manually-operated Oka cars. One of them is of completely manual steering and the second one is of combined control (with steering wheel control and one pedal).
The dormitory is hardly equipped with the elements of barrier free environment; there is one steep entrance ramp outside and one wheelchair ramp inside the building. To get into the bathroom you need to have a narrow wheelchair or to move from one chair on another. The beds are not adjusted for wheelchair users; there is no laundry in the building, so you need to take a wash-basin and washing powder with you.
The training course is conducted in the driver training center “Specavtomaster” (Minsk). Since learner drivers are not provided with accommodation, they have to look for it themselves. The learner drivers are taught to drive separately on a motordrome.
The driver training center has two manually-operated cars – one VAZ 2108 with mechanical gearbox and one Nissan Micra with automatic gearbox.
Theoretical lectures are conducted on the 4th floor, but there is no lift in the building and the bathrooms are not adjusted for the needs of wheelchair users. That is why it is impossible for wheelchair users to study there.
What is the way out?
One of the solutions is to study in Vileyka. This variant, however, is hardly suitable for those who live in Minsk and other big cities. Of course it is possible to take out the driver license in Vileyka, but later you will have to get used to the heavy traffic of a big city. In addition, living conditions in the dormitory are not suitable for wheelchair users and the training course takes from 3 to 4 months.
In Minsk it possible to get a great practice of driving in a big city, and even driving a car with automatic gearbox. At the same time it is impossible to complete theoretical course attending classes in a building without a lift.
An alternative variant is to study theory and practice separately. It is possible to complete theoretical course in the native city (about two months) and practical course in Minsk or Vileyka (about one month).
Such kind of separate training is taking on popularity as the regular training course means that:
– For 3 or 4 months a person has to live far from home, which is impossible for those who work or study.
– Moreover, a learner is going to live separately from his family.
– Living far from home means considerable expenses connected with accommodation and food (studying in Vileyka learners also have to pay for accommodation and food).
– For 3 or 4 months a learner will have to put up with absence of barrier free environment and access to sanitary hygienic facilities.
– For a period of 3 or 4 months a wheelchair user is prevented from attending medical examinations in his local outpatient clinic.
– For a training period a wheelchair user is prevented from social work services as he lives in a city that is different from his place of residence registration.
Evgeny Shevko, PA “RAWU”
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