In an exchange of views on improving transportation infrastructure and mobility within and outside cities for people with disabilities, Minister of Transport, Communications and Works, Alexis Vafeadis, and Deputy Minister of Social Welfare and Social Insurance, Marilena Evangelou, met on Monday with representatives of the Cyprus Confederation of Organizations of the Disabled (KYSOA) at the Ministry of Transport.
Following the meeting, Mr. Vafeadis stated that the problems faced by people with disabilities in their daily travels within cities, towns, and villages, as well as in their mobility both within and outside urban areas, were carefully listened to. “We consider today’s action as significant; it will greatly assist us in improving our infrastructure, both passive (roads and sidewalks) and active (public transportation), so that society becomes more inclusive,” he said.
He indicated that members of KYSOA should be able to actively participate in daily life and contribute as much as they can and worthy to contribute. Therefore, he added, it is an action that has started and will continue, with a two-way exchange of views and information both with KYSOA and the Ministries “so that we can take more and better measures.”
Mr. Vafeadis explained that improvements needed in infrastructure were discussed to facilitate the movement of people with disabilities with greater ease and comfort, citing the improvement of sidewalk usage as an example, noting that there should be no obstacles on sidewalks hindering people with disabilities from moving. He noted that the most important thing is access to the workplace, saying that ways to improve public transportation were also discussed.
When asked if there are timetables for implementing actions, the Minister pointed out that actions have been taken but they need to be faster. “We are here because as a Ministry of Social Welfare, there are issues that need to be addressed in cooperation with the Ministry of Transport and other Ministries,” said the Deputy Minister of Social Welfare. She explained that issues concerning people with disabilities are addressed comprehensively by the Government, and therefore, there is close cooperation to ensure the best practices and actions “and to be as close as possible to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”
Ms. Evangelou noted that there is political will expressed at the highest level, from the President of the Republic, that issues concerning the rights of people with disabilities are a priority, indicating that “we are moving in that direction.” She further stated that cooperation with KYSOA is continuous, uninterrupted, and a dialogue has begun “so that we can modernize, improve, and proceed with new legislation regarding people with disabilities.”
On his part, the President of KYSOA, Christakis Nicolaides, said that the meeting results in a positive atmosphere and opens up prospects for resolving many long-standing distortions in Cyprus. “We believe that people with disabilities should be integrated into society in every way. They should be able to use public transportation smoothly, move on sidewalks, on the streets, enter buildings, and much more, without obstacles. These things certainly need to be implemented as soon as possible in our country,” said Mr. Nicolaides.
He added that “we expect, and it seems that there is understanding from both the Minister and the Deputy Minister for our issues, and we hope they will find their solutions in cooperation with us.” This is the most important, he continued, that any projects carried out should be done in cooperation with KYSOA and the disability movement. “We expect institutional dialogue regarding issues that concern us,” he concluded.