Armenia’s Crisis Management Center and Rapid Response Service 911 are the bedrock of the country’s risk reduction system, feeding round the clock information to the Ministry of Emergency Situations and other bodies, as well as stepping in if disaster strikes. People with disabilities are among the most vulnerable in a crisis situation, but for all too long, addressing their needs and interests was the preserve of NGOs that operated with little or no support from the authorities. At the same time, the employment rate among working Armenian residents with disabilities is less than 10 percent, and they are far less likely than the general population to have higher education. In an attempt to change attitudes within the state system and beyond, as well as to make employment and disaster Policy more inclusive, the authorities therefore launched a programme to recruit people with disabilities into the country’s risk reduction and response system.
The Turning Vulnerability into Partnership programme has four basic pillars: a shared understanding of the special needs of people with disabilities; consensus on their involvement in disaster risk management; a common sense of responsibility; agreed measures relevant to their needs and capacities. Under the programme, the Ministry of Emergency Situations has become the first government body to adopt special measures to bring people with disabilities into public service. More than 30 wheelchair users have been added to the staff of the Crisis Management Center and Rapid Response Service 911. The buildings of the ministry have been adapted to fit their needs, with wheelchair ramps, special elevators, toilets and other facilities, while office hours have also been set to meet their capacities. In addition, special vehicles provide the wheelchair-using staff with transportation to and from their homes. To help meet their educational needs, meanwhile, Armenia’s Crisis Management State Academy established a new, multi-function complex to train people with disabilities as dispatcher-operators in emergency response, among other posts. Set to be fully operational in 2015, it will provide access to free education for people with disabilities, thereby opening the door for new opportunities and enhancing integration.
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