Sociological research points to a low level of awareness among Russians about the Paralympic Games, and furthermore the staging of competitions at this level (for the first time in Russia's history) demands that qualitative changes be made not only in terms of developing a barrier-free environment, but also in terms of overcoming stereotypes about people with disabilities. The "Program to raise awareness among the population of the Russian Federation about the Paralympic Games and the Paralympic values", which was launched by the Organizing Committee in 2011, is intended to help shape the right attitudes towards people with disabilities, and to provide information about the history, philosophy and values of the Paralympic Movement. The main task of the program is to alter attitudes within Russian society towards the more than 13 million Russians who have a disability. The Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi will provide a unique opportunity to apply the very best global experience in terms of fully integrating people with disabilities into all that Russian society has to offer.
Several projects are being implemented within the framework of the program:
On October 23, 2012, with 500 days remaining until the Paralymic Games, the "Accessibility Map" portal was launched. The project has provided a platform to unite an interactive map of the whole of Russia with clubs for getting involved in Paralympic sports, along with an information resource about the Paralympic Movement. The Accessibility Map is being supported by Sochi 2014 Volunteer Centers from 16 regions of Russia, and by the 42 regions involved in the state program "Accessible Environment". Also, anyone who so wishes can send in information about sports clubs for people with disabilities, and venues that form part of the barrier-free environment, for inclusion on the map.
The "Accessibility Map" is being implemented in conjunction with the foundation to support people with disabilities, "United Сountry", which aims to integrate people with disabilities into society on the legal basis of the Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities. The Fund is headed by the Paralympic champion, Deputy of the State Duma and General Secretary of the Paralympic Committee of Russia, Mikhail Terentiev.
The aim of this project is to familiarize the wider society with Paralympic athletes - and their sporting successes - from various federal districts within Russia. The project began in April 2011, and so far the following stars have been named "Our Champions": Aleksei Ashapatov (weightlifting / Urals FD), Ivan Goncharov (cross-country skiing, biathlon / Central FD), Mikhail Lysov (Biathlon / Urals FD), Kirill Mikhailov (cross-country skiing / Volga FD), the Udmurtiya sledge-hockey team (Volga FD) and the Paralympic curling team "Granit" (Urals FD), Alexander Alyabiev (Central FD), Alexandra Frantseva (Far-eastern FD) and Sergei Poddubny (Central FD).
As part of the project, the athletes have been taking part in various culture, sporting and educational projects. There are plans to develop the project further, and by the time the Paralympic Games in Sochi get underway, the number of "Our Champions" from Russia's various regions will have increased.
The main objective of Paralympic education is to show Russian society as a whole, and people with disabilities in particular, how rich and varied life can be thanks to Paralympic sport. The tasks for the project are to spread information about the philosophy and values of the Paralympic Movement, to foster a friendly and welcoming atmosphere in Russia towards people with disabilities, which will enable the Paralympic Games of 2014 in Sochi to be a success, and to provide a high level of service and professionalism among all the people involved in organizing the Games.
By December 2011 an educational module had been developed based on the Paralympic Program - and this document lies at the heart of the educational products that are planned. On October 24, 2012, 500 days before the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, the Paralympic educational program gets underway in Russia's schools.