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Last winter I coordinated the organisation of a photo exhibition at the Esentai Gallery in Almaty, Kazakhstan. The title of the exhibition was “We can do everything”, and presented 40 works showcasing the activities and achievements of strong people with disabilities – their work, hobbies, and participation in cultural and sporting events. The photos also depicted their numerous talents, their optimism and their belief in themselves.
The event was organised by the Almaty City Society of People with Disabilities, which represents the interests of more than 40,000 Almaty residents with disabilities. The organisation has done a lot of work to monitor infrastructural barriers in the municipality, and create more accessible environments for all. This photo project was conceived to attract public attention to the issues of integrating people with disabilities in society, and the need to create more accessible urban infrastructure. The event was organised on 3rd December 2017, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. This celebration was established in 1992 by the UN General Assembly to draw attention to the barriers faced by people with disabilities and promote their full participation in all spheres of life.
Government authorities, photographers, representatives of NGOs, as well as district societies for the protection of the rights of people with disabilities took part in the opening of the exhibition. The event was opened by Otynshiev M.B., Deputy Chief of the Office of Social Programs and Employment of Almaty, and Inkarbekov U.A., Deputy Chairman of the Almaty City Society of People with Disabilities.
Currently, there are more than 650,000 people with disabilities living in Kazakhstan. I believe it is crucial to show that people with disabilities live, work and participate in our society, despite the stereotypes and problems related to the lack of accessible infrastructure.
I believe it is crucial to show that people with disabilities live, work and participate in our society, despite the stereotypes and problems related to the lack of accessible infrastructure.
The photo exhibition was entitled “We can do everything” not randomly or by chance. It was designed to inspire, first of all, people with disabilities to live brightly, play sports, realize their talents and follow their dreams. For example, disability is not an obstacle for obtaining a prestigious education. I hold a master’s degree from an European scholarship program regardless of cerebral palsy, and I returned to Kazakhstan to tackle problems of inclusive education and involve people with disabilities in society. I hope that my example and the subjects of the photo exhibition will give motivation to all people living with different disabilities to bring positive change in their communities.
[Cover photo: Portrait of Anar Lepesova. She is the founder of an online shop and makes handmade toys. Photo by B. Maratov]
Mrs. Madina Karsakpayeva is the coordinator on work with disabled people at the Almaty City Society of People with Disabilities. After 16 years of home education (both school and university), she received a scholarship for an Erasmus Mundus MA programme in Special and Inclusive Education that led her to study in the UK, Norway and Czech Republic. This experience showed her a world of opportunities, access and acceptance, and she discovered how different countries implement inclusive education policies. Being the first Erasmus Mundus alumni with disability from Kazakhstan urged her to launch a Disability Network within the Erasmus Mundus Association to help other peers around the world believe in themselves and access this world of unlimited opportunities. Back in Kazakhstan, Madina led several events aimed at promoting inclusion for people with disabilities, such as an introductory seminar for teachers, directors and other professionals of more than 10 schools of Almaty City. Prior to joining the Almaty City Society of People with Disabilities, Madina worked in various areas such as volunteering, translation, English teaching and computer literacy for youth with Disabilities in Kazakhstan.