A disabled platform tied to the underpass railing with a mud rag and supported by a car tire. The modern “installation” of the “accessible” environment in Varna is located in the underpass of “Levski” Blvd., next to “Sportist” magazine. We call the phone number stuck on the platform – KONE Customer Service Center. “On Levski Blvd., we only have footbridges,” a female voice answers kindly. “But here is your phone listed on the platforms for the disabled in the subways in Varna?”. “Apparently there is no renewed contract. I’m in Sofia, I can’t tell you.” The conversation ends with a call from the kind employee to contact the municipality of Varna.
EcoVarna did this already on September 28 of this year. We asked the Municipality of Varna in writing what part of the subways have lifting devices built for people with permanent disabilities and mothers with strollers and what part of them are in working order as of the date of our question. We also inquired what part of public buildings are accessible to persons with permanent disabilities, i.e. they have built ramps, elevators for people with reduced mobility, etc. An answer did not follow within almost a month, despite the reminder.
Our research showed that 55 stair platforms have been installed in Varna for the movement of disabled people through pedestrian underpasses. However, in practice they are unusable since installation
Our attempts to stumble upon a working platform proved ill-fated. After visiting dozens of subways in the Primorski area, we find a device that has a strong button and responds to pressure. As we try to get a wheelchair onto him, however, we hear a hysterical shout behind us: “Ma’am, please don’t! Last month, a man with a wheelchair got hung up on this platform. Do not use it under any circumstances!”.
The situation is similar with elevators. “No one should use them! Especially mothers with strollers, so they don’t stress their children,” says Kalina Tsacheva, who has been using a wheelchair in Varna for a year now. The elevator closest to her – at the “Acacias” stop – has been unusable for months. “It had the look of an abandoned facility. A friend insisted we try it. And he took that he left. We went inside – cobwebs, stench, darkness. A stressful experience! I thanked God we got out. I won’t use it anymore,” says Kalina categorically. The situation takes place in August. In September, access to the elevator was already limited by safety strips.
“These facilities need maintenance, operating instructions and human appearance. Maybe it’s easier to make ramps,” believes Kalina Tsacheva.
Corrections of nearly BGN 750,000 have been imposed on the Municipality of Varna in 2021 for three European projects with a total value of BGN 8,650,000. Part of them are the installed ramps for the disabled in the subways. An inspection by the control body in 2019 found that some of the installed wheelchair ramps were not in working order and there were no shelters. The installed sound signaling for blind people at bus stops is not fully functional, and City Transport drivers are not provided with instructions for operating the ramps.
People in the know say that the company that installed the ramps was also supposed to maintain them for 5 years according to the project, but this was not included in the contract. The money has been absorbed, but the ramps are practically unusable.
The Municipality of Varna estimates the service of stair platforms for people with disabilities, installed in the city’s subways, at nearly BGN 400,000 including VAT/year. A public tender for the service was announced this autumn by the local administration, and the deadline for receiving bids expired a week before the local elections. The financing for the execution of the order will be carried out from the municipal budget.
Footbridges for now remain one of the few opportunities for people with disabilities to cross intersections. However, they are difficult to access for people who do not have physical strength in their hands, says Dobromir Dobrev, a young man in a wheelchair.
“We wanted bike lanes and approaches for strollers that end at zero level, but some places are several centimeters higher,” says Dobromir. according to him the problem is control
“There are services, but they don’t reach people because of small gaps that no one checks,” says the young man from Varna.
“One bus has ramps, others don’t. On those that are there, in order to get on, the driver has to go further and stop near the stop,” explains Dobromir Dobrev.
“People with wheelchairs in Varna do not use public transport en masse. The reason – they can’t get to it. Even if they do, it is unclear whether the bus driver will lower the platform. They don’t use the subways either, because if they enter from one side, it is not clear if they will be able to exit from the other. That’s why at the risk of their lives they cross over the subways says Marina Karapetyan, chairman of the Association for People with Disabilities – Varna.
According to her, it is not possible to give an unequivocal answer as to whether the environment is accessible for people with disabilities. In general, it is not, Karapetyan believes. As an example of accessibility, she gives shopping centers, such as malls. “There is a legal framework that is not bad