A New Project on Accessible Tourism Starts in Belarus

On December 4, the opening conference of the project "Volozhin without Barriers" took place in the same name town. The initiative will result in a tourist trail, a hostel, and a conference hall for people with disabilities. Furthermore, several buildings in Volozhin will be made accessible to them. These results are expected to be achieved within three years thanks to financing from the European Union. Interakcia Foundation is implementing the project in cooperation with the Volozhin's municipality, Belarusian Society of People with Disabilities, and Belarusian Public Association Country Escape.
The tourist trail in Nalibokskaya pusha, a dense forest partly located in Volozhin district, will meet primarily the needs of people in wheelchairs and those having visual impairments. Moreover, they, as well as tourists with other disabilities, will have an opportunity to stay in the hostel for 20 guests. The conference hall, specially equipped for people with visual and hearing impairments, will be created in the same building. Finally, owners of farmsteads located in Volozhin district will be invited to participate in a contest for grants for developing accessible tourism.
There is a social services center Volozhin that opened quite a long time ago. People with disabilities can do arts and crafts there. This center has been constantly developing, so it was a logical decision to create a hostel and a conference hall on its second floor, which is not used now,” – said Vladimir Potapenko, Head of Belarusian Society of People with Disabilities. – “Furthermore, I would like to note that our organization and the other project’s partners are going to mount a big festival of social integration and a summer camp where its conception will be prepared”.
Thanks to the project, Volozhin’s buildings will also become more accessible to people with disabilities, seniors, and parents with younger children. Around 30 buildings hosting providers of social services – e.g., banking, medical, postal, educational ones – will be reconstructed in accordance with the needs of these social groups. Volozhin is going to share the project’s results and experiences with other Belarusian regions, specifically, through a special study tour.
"Social integration of people with disabilities, equal opportunities for everyone are among the principal goals the European Union is supporting. Of course, one project does not lead to their realization, but it can generate an impulse, define problems faced by people with disabilities, and it helps stakeholders to find solutions together”, – noted Natallia Stasevitch, Project Manager at EU Delegation in Belarus.
The project "Volozhin without Barriers" is implemented by Volozhin District Executive Committee, Belarusian Society of People with Disabilities, Belarusian Public Association Country Escape, and Interkacia Foundation. The project is expected to end in 2018. Its budget is 1 111 000 euro, while 90% of the funding are provided by the European Union. 
10 December 2015

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