Ekaterinburg-based SPUTNIK municipal public organization of disabled people was formed October 23, 1997, to protect the rights and interests of the disabled.
With that goal in mind, members of the organization, the only representatives of Russia, owing solely to their own effort, attended two worldwide disabled travelers' congresses held in 1997 and 1998 in the U.S. (Ft. Lauderdale and Miami, Florida). Both congresses were hosted by SATH, an American disabled travelers' organization then chaired by the late Mr. Murray Vidockler. Much to our regret, this kind and open-hearted man who opened the world to us is no longer with us. Murray Vidockler passed away in 1999.
When at the 1998 Congress, we came forward with the initiative to establish an international disabled people's center in Ekaterinburg, at the Europe-Asia interface, as a model for the society's due attitude to the disabled. The idea received support and encouragement from many delegates to the congress:
Richard Thompson, England:
"Having experienced the realities of life, and doing business in Russia, I believe the vision and objectives set by the delegation from Ekaterinburg should be applauded and supported. And the challenges ahead cannot be underestimated. The lack of awareness and sensitivity towards the needs of people with disabilities in Russia are compounded by the desperate economic situation which will assure, for the foreseeable future, that this sector of the population must struggle for the very basic facilities and amenities we now take for granted in the West.
Lyudmila and her colleagues have a dream. Let us all send them back to their city in the Urals with the assurance that, as people sharing common goals, we wholeheartedly support their project.
PLEA TO THE GOVERNOR OF SVERDLOVSK OBLAST
Your recognition of the value of the project will do much to raise the prestige of the region of Sverdlovsk. It will also provide exciting and enriching opportunities for the disabled people of Ekaterinburg –- and the whole world!"
Susan Cottril, USA: "It is a capital idea that ought to promote peace and a goodwill spirit between all nations. I'd love to visit Russia! Good luck!"
Carol Duscol, Canada: "To be hearty friends and let foreign disabled people really get to know the Russian people is a noble commitment. I will be glad to help."
Eli Moiri, Israel: "The worldwide Disabled Traveler’s House offered by the Sputnik Organization is really a great idea. I think that it can be a model for other nations also. I hope we can cooperate in this vision."
-- and a whole lot of other encouraging responses.
Currently we cooperate closely with many foreign disability-concerned organizations.
In May 1999, Sputnik organization was given the Daphne Hare award for the Russian-American Information and Cultural Center for Disabled People project.
Most exciting work with the 2000 Model for the Protection of Disabled People's Rights and Interests project financed by the British government's Know How Foundation has opened up broad avenues for us in that direction. We have held training workshops in Ekaterinburg and other Sverdlovsk province cities alike. Regular publications in the newspapers, TV pages, the Protect Yourself telephone service, visits to heavily impaired disabled people, disability-related video footage have done a good deal in teaching a vast number of physically challenged people to not merely know their rights but also know how to protect them.
The biggest and most delightful event for our organization was the issue of our book entitled Being but not Living Disabled. We highly appreciate the contribution of the Know How Foundation thanks to which this unique book could be published. The book has become popular both across Sverdlovsk province and elsewhere in Russia. We have been receiving letters asking for it every day. Unfortunately this most needed and helpful book has only been issued in 1000 copies. The entire edition is circulated free. Those willing to read the book are invited to contact the online Moshkov library athttp://www.lib.ru/PRAWO/INVALID/zashita.txt .
The Being but not Living Disabled book has been acknowledged as the event of the year 2000 in the social life of the Urals region's community. It has been awarded a 2nd degree Diploma in the nomination "Journalism" in the Profi-Ekaterinburg 2000 competition.
Sputnik currently closely cooperates with the Perspektiva Russian provincial organization of disabled people chaired by Denis Rosa. We are involved in a joint project titled Young Challenged People for Equal Rights and Chances for the Disabled". Within the scope of the project, young activists who have received training in Moscow now hold workshops for disability awareness and protecting the rights of the disabled, hold round tables with representatives of the media and executive authorities, speak on the radio and TV, carry out all sorts of actions for an accessible environment in Ekaterinburg. For example the Handrail for Each Stairway action has aroused quite a response in the society. Our House – Our City should be comfortable for all!
One thing happened quite recently that is of paramount importance for all Urals challenged people. Eduard E. Rossel, Governor of Sverdlovsk province, has given support to our project "Sverdlovsk Province Information, Cultural and Rehabilitation Center for Disabled People" (hereafter the Center).
The Center, while possessing a large disability related Russian and foreign information base, will help Russian challenged people find their place in life.
We do hope and trust that our Governor's strong hand will lighten up the Center's windows in the year 2001 to break the boundaries of our apartments, countries and continents!
We shall highly appreciate all bodies and organizations, both domestic and foreign, willing to collaborate with us in challenged people's rights protection. We appeal on-line to all disability concerned organizations and disabled individuals. What is your life like, what sort of problems do you face, what rehabilitation means have you, how do you protect your rights, how do the laws of the state you live in protect you, how do you work, how do you rest, etc. Any aspect of your lifestyle will be of interest to us. If you let us know about your organization or yourself, we shall, on our part, set out an interesting exposition of your materials in our Center as well as tell about you in our local newspapers. You will acquire lots of friends and brothers-in arms in Russia. We will be able to closely cooperate and help each other.
EVERYBODY'S PARTNERSHIP IS WELCOME.
WE ARE PLEASED TO WORK WITH AND FOR YOU!