Don’t Go to Russia (the access and prejudices may drive you batty)!

I recently fell across this crazy (yet brilliant and hysterical) article written by Yasha Levine on “The Exile,” a Russia-based informations site, called “Hell On Wheels: 24 Hours Without Wheels in Moscow.” I’m not quite sure if his article was supposed to be satirical or purely informational, or shocking, or all three of these attributes, but I do know one thing – it was a HUGE wake-up call to Miss Tiffiny Carlson, in regards to how lucky I am to live in a city (Minneapolis), that is over 90% accessible (in regards to public facilities).

What Mr. Levine did was rent out a wheelchair for 250 rubles/week called “Nadezdha,” from an area medical rental place, which basically means (translated from Russian into English, of course), “Hope.” So, with the shoddy “Hope” wheelchair in his possession, which wasn’t easy to find by the way, Mr. Levine went out across the vastness that is the city of Moscow – post-Communism over 10+ years no less – to peruse the town PUBLICALLY, which in itself happens to be a big deal over there because essentially no one with a disability ever goes out in public out of both physical (lack of accessibility) and psychological (shame, embarrassment) reasons. Thanks to the extreme division of the able-bodied and the disabled in Communist-era Russia, everyone with a disability was pretty much institutionalized and never integrated into the public environment. The Russian public, still, TO THIS DAY, doesn’t know how to properly and politely handle people with disabilities (other than throw spare rubles at them or tell them they’re not wanted).

What Levine did in his 24 hours “without legs” was traverse the Muscovite subway system (via wheelies on escalators), dine on sub-par sushi at a huge (relatively new and thankfully accessibly) mall that lies on the outskirts of Moscow (fitting in a dinner date with his girlfriend, no less), and than (his biggest challenge), attempting to integrate himself into the elite Moscow clubbing scene (which was by far his biggest challenge). “We do not allow invalids into our club,” said one bouncer in the most simplistic terms possible, as he attempted to enter a certain snotty club. Undeterred, he used his friends (who were able-bodied and hip, as “clout”) he finally did get himself into another nearby high-brow club, and even got himself a few sexy (clothes-on) lap-dances from some hot Muscovite-women too. Oh the surprise that was!

To read this truly informative and mind-expanding article, and to learn to fully appreciate the accessibility of your current residence by the highest means possible, do read Yasha Levine’s article on his one-day escapade (thank ye gods) in the city of Moscow.

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