With the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games now just days away, over 1,000 city infrastructure facilities in Sochi have been newly recognized as fully accessible. Paralympic sport in Russia has also received a significant boost, with three times as many people with a disability involved in sport from 2006 to 2011. Approximately 200 Russian cities have already adopted Sochi's best practice example and created a barrier-free environment that facilitates the adoption of an active lifestyle by people with a disability.
The Games have set new standards of city planning and construction, given all the sports venues and infrastructure were constructed to meet the requirements of people with a disability. Sochi was the first in the country to implement a program to create an accessible city that is convenient to all residents and guests. Everything that was created in Sochi for the Games, including transport, roads, sports venues and public infrastructure, was constructed taking all accessibility requirements into account.
The barrier-free environment that was created in Sochi for the Games-2014 will allow people with a disability to move more freely and independently around the city, use transport, visit attractions, places of work and study, leisure and recreation, as well as practice sports.
The positive influence of the Games is currently being felt not only in the region, but across the entire country. The innovative Accessibility Map project, which was implemented by the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee and the United Country Foundation to Support People with a Disability, has made an invaluable contribution to this process. The Accessibility Map allows people with a disability to find places within walking distance where they can take part in Paralympic sports. The resource also provides information on nearby barrier-free facilities. At present, the Accessibility Map already lists more than 14,700 locations and is growing all the time.
Accessible sports venues
From the sports venue design phase and to the commissioning of these venues, the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee has constantly tracked issues related to the creation of an accessible environment. It worked in partnership with international and Russian experts on barrier-free environment in order to deliver the project. All sports venues in the Mountain and Coastal Clusters that host Winter Paralympic Games events in Sochi have been built while taking full accessibility requirements into consideration. They are fully adapted not only to host events involving Paralympic athletes, but also to welcome spectators with a disability.
Each competition venue provides spectator seats, service areas and common areas equipped for people with a disability. For example, the infrastructure of the Laura Cross-country Ski & Biathlon Center is completely ready to host the Paralympic events. There are 152 accessible cable cars, 15 accessible vans, locker rooms and wheelchair-accessible seats available for people with a disability at the venue.
The Shayba Arena has about 100 accessible seats that comply with the strictest barrier-free environment requirements. Artificial ice has been placed along corridors leading to locker rooms that allow the athletes not only to move freely through the arena, but also around it. An accessible environment has been created at all levels and in all the client zones, from the grand front entrance, to the emergency exits.
The Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Sochi 2014 Games are accessible to visually impaired spectators thanks to verbal descriptions that are provided through headphones. Volunteers have undergone sports commentary and verbal description training courses to help provide the best accompaniment to the thrilling shows.
Guiding and visual paths have been laid for visually impaired guests at the Olympic Park and at all Games venues. Guiding strips have also been installed on stairs and transparent surfaces at these venues.
Accessible pathways between both the city and the Games venues, as well as inside the competition venues and the Olympic Park, have been provided to ensure the comfortable movement of all guests of the Games. Over 800 buses are being added to the city transport system during the Games Time to transport various client groups, of which 327 buses are accessible for wheelchairs. Wheelchairs to support those requiring mobility assistance will be provided in the Olympic Park during the Games Time. Accessible shuttles will run from the entrance to the Olympic Park to all sports facilities.
During the Pre-Games time the main and auxiliary Games transport hubs, including railway stations and transit international airports in Sochi, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Krasnodar and Anapa, will be fully brought into compliance with barrier-free environmental standards.
A number of measures to apply international accessibility standards to Sochi International Airport have been carried out. Glass surfaces have been marked for the visually impaired and warning plates and ramps have been installed around all staircases. Reception desks to serve passengers with a disability have been modified in accordance with current standards and many are equipped with induction loops for the hearing impaired. Signposts that indicate accessible pathways in the area adjacent to the airport terminal and inside the building have also been installed.
Rooms that are fully accessible to people with a disability have been provided at all hotels, resorts and accommodation locations in the city as part of the preparations for the Games.
In international hospitality zones in the Central, Khosta and Adler Regions over 40 km of pathways have been equipped for anyone with limited ability.
Accessible public transportation (buses, taxi-cabs, electric trains, cable car routes) will ensure an easy movement for the Games participants and guests between the Sochi city venues.
Currently 108 passenger buses with accessibility ramps and places for securing wheelchairs operate along urban and suburban routes in Sochi.
A Barrier-Free Map of Sochi (www.sochibezbarierov.ru) has been created, which indicates significant assessable infrastructure facilities in the city, including an indication of the facility's accessibility level along with a description and images to view. The database is regularly updated and it includes a function that allows users to submit feedback.
New ATMs have appeared in Sochi that are specially equipped to maximize accessibility. These include "speaking" ATMs with clear text support and diagrams for visually and hearing impaired and ATMs at a comfortable height for wheelchair users. By the summer 2013, 21 conveniently located terminals were already installed.
The beaches of the Riviera Park and Yuzhnoe Vzmorye Resort have even been transformed to increase accessibility for everyone. For example, dedicated wheelchairs for water have been acquired from the Tiralo company, allowing people with a disability to enjoy the sea. The Riviera Park is fully adapted to the requirements of a barrier-free environment.
Overall, thanks to various programs and fund raising efforts, 21 educational institutions have been made accessible. Three such schools already have certified.
Notes to the Editor:
The Sochi Paralympic Winter Games will take place from 7-16 March 2014.
The program of events in Sochi will set a Paralympic Games record. A total of 1,600 Paralympic athletes and team members from 47 different countries are set to participate. Seventy-two sets of medals in such spectacular sports as Alpine skiing (including para-snowboarding), cross-country skiing, biathlon, ice sledge hockey and wheelchair curling will be awarded. The Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Paralympic Games will be held at the Fisht Olympic Stadium.
There will be more than 8,000 volunteers at the Paralympic Games in Sochi.
Information campaign to create a barrier-free environment
Not only construction, but also information standards have been implemented to create a barrier-free environment. The Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee, with the assistance of the International Olympic University and the International Paralympic Committee, has developed and is currently carrying out the Paralympic Awareness Program, a comprehensive program to raise awareness in Russia of the Paralympic Games and Paralympic values.
Several projects are being carried out under this program:
The Accessibility Map portal was launched 500 days before the Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi on October 23, 2012 (www.kartadostupnosti.ru). The project combined an interactive nationwide map of accessible buildings and venues for Paralympic sports and an informational resource for the Paralympic Movement. Sochi 2014 Volunteer Centers from 16 Russian regions are actively working on the Accessibility Map. Currently the map lists more than 14,700 facilities. Anyone can make their contribution to the national map and submit information about sports clubs for people with disabilities and barrier-free facilities to be included on the map.
The Accessibility Map project is being implemented by the United Country Foundation to Support People with a Disability under the direction of Mikhail Terentyev, General Secretary of the Russian Paralympic Committee, together with the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee.
The Accessibility Map is the recipient of a number of prestigious awards: http://www.sochi2014.com/media/news/69037/
Sochi 2014 "Our Champion"
The objective of this project is to introduce the wider community to Paralympic athletes from various Russian federal regions and their sporting achievements. The "Our Champion" project was launched in 2011. As part of the project athletes speak at various cultural, sports, and educational events and talk about their experience as participants in the Paralympic Games and about the history and values of the Paralympic Movement. The following athletes are current Sochi 2014 "Our Champions": Alexey Ashapatov (track and field / Ural Federal District), Ivan Goncharov (cross-country skiing, biathlon / Central Federal District), Mikhalina Lysova (biathlon, Ural Federal District), Kirill Mikhailov (cross-country skiing / Volga Federal District), Udmurtia sledge-hockey team (Volga Federal District), Granit wheelchair curling team (Ural Federal District), Alexander Alyabyev (alpine skiing / Central Federal District), Alexandra Frantseva (alpine skiing / Far East Federal District), Sergey Poddubny (table tennis / Central Federal District), Vladimir Krivulya (weight lifting/ South Federal District), Tatiana Ilyuchenko (cross-country skiing/Siberian Federal District), Fedor Trikolich (athletics/Northwest Federal District) and Gocha Khugaev (athletics/North Caucasian Federal District).
The main objectives of the Paralympic Education program are the dissemination of information about the philosophy and values of the Paralympic Movement as well as the creation of a positive and hospitable atmosphere in Russia conducive to the success of the Paralympic Games of 2014 in Sochi. Paralympic Education provides educational programs for secondary and post-secondary education institutions. They disseminate core knowledge about Paralympic sports, the Paralympic Movement and proper behavior towards people with a disability. The Paralympic Education program was launched 500 days before the Paralympic Winter Games of 2014 on October 23, 2013, in schools across all of Russia.
A series of Paralympic lessons, which will be held across the country, were also launched. http://www.sochi2014.com/media/news/68479/