In the streets of Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, a world-class chamber choir gathers to perform in a regional music festival. Their performance is heralded for many reasons, including the fact that most members of the Paros Chamber Choir live with disabilities, and all sing from a seated position. Known locally as the wheelchair choir, this group is promoted by one of several Disability People Organizations (DPOs) in Armenia working to improve life for people with disabilities.
Now, with support from EDC, an initiative called the Social Legacy Program is working with Armenian DPOs to develop a national coalition. Coalition members will identify one or more challenges and then will develop activities to address those challenges.
“The people I’ve met at the forefront of the disabilities movement in Armenia are committed to ensuring that everyone can be an active contributor to the economic, social, and political life of a society,” says EDC’s Gustavo Payan. “They serve as role models and sources of inspiration for others—‘disabled’ or not.”
EDC will work with the coalition as it coordinates efforts, prioritizes activities, and administers funding. Coalition members also will develop targeted activities to improve conditions and policies.
Breaking down barriers
Today, there are nearly 170,000 people in Armenia living with many different kinds of disabilities. Each DPO has its own focus, such as working to remove physical barriers for those who use a wheelchair, advocating for new laws and policies, promoting inclusive schools and workplaces, and improving vocational training.
Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Eastern Europe and Eurasia Bureau, the Social Legacy Program is working on similar issues in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, to the north of Armenia, and hopes to establish ties between the two countries.
Originally published on October 24, 2008