Wheelchair a hurdle for Belarus paralympics star to enter night club

Paralympics star Liudmila Vauchok was not allowed to enter a night club because of her wheelchair.

"On the night of March 8, four of us arrived at the Titan club. The table had been booked beforehand. We were going to celebrate my bronze medal at European Championships (in cross-country ski racing) and my friend's birthday. But the bouncers would not let us in," indignant Liudmila tells Euroradio correspondent. "They told us: the table is on the second floor. It is not fit for you. An emergency situation can occur," smiles the paralympics star. "The bouncer did not let me in. Then he called his boss but that would not help. We simply turned away and left. Our evening was spoilt. The day before yesterday I went to the club and made a note in the book of suggestions and complaints."

Euroradio: Did it happen before that you would not be allowed in a night club?

Liudmila Vauchok: "I rarely go out to the places like this, but this was the first time I experienced something like that. When in London, we went to a disco after the award ceremony, and everything was just fine. In London, people do not feel embarassed because of their disabilities. They go out and have fun. In Belarus, there are serious problems in this regard."

If the famous ski racer, public and media personality is not allowed in a club, can you imagine what happens to other disabled people in a situation like this?

However, Titan's security team seems to have made certain conclusions after the incident with the renowned athlete. Euroradio correspondent called the club, asking if a person in wheelchair would be allowed inside to have a party.

"I will let you in. You can come," sighs the head of club's security service. "You just neet to bring your escort along. But you have to understand that our club is not fit for disabled people in wheelchairs. We do not have access ramps. But if you come, I will let you in."

Well, people in wheelchairs are all different and not all of them are like Liudmila Vauchok who does not stop short of any barriers. She can even jump to the third floor in her house without an elevator. Six months before the London Games Liudmila gave birth to her daughter. Three weeks later, she was back in training.

But many disabled people in Belarus still remain off-board. And night clubs seem to be just one of the links in the non-tolerance chain.

"Will you allow a person on wheelchair in?" Euroradio asks the administrator at the Minsk-based trendy night club Dozari.

"Hardly. I don't think so. We have a strict face-control, dress-code."

Euroradio: His face is okay, and he wears designer fashion outfits. But he has a wheelchair. He would not want to come only to be told to buzz off at the entrance.

Dozari: I see your point, but it is up to the bouncer.

Euroradio: What are the criteria generally?

Dozari: No sporting outfits. People are expected to be dressed neatly and to have European appearance.

Euroradio: In other words, if a disabled person turns out to be Chinese, he or she has no chances?

Dozari: Most likely, he or she will not be allowed in. Again, it is up to a security guard.

No fun for a disabled person in wheelchair in Goodwin club, either:  

"We have stairs everywhere around. I do not think we will allow him in."

"You know, our stairs are very high. But if you can carry him up, so why not? You are welcome to come," administrators at Moncafe tell Euroradio. "Another issue here is if the wheelchair fits into the toilet's doorway. As for the entrance, there should not be problem, because the doors are open wide."

The popular club RE:PUBLIC, known for hot gigs, has access ramps suitable for disabled people. In March, RE:PUBLIC hosted the gig by Russian popular rapper Rem Digga who moves around in a wheelchair. The musician had no moving problems at all.  

At Moulin Rouge, administrators got a bit worried when asked about accessibility for disabled customers:

"This will be possible. You will only need to book our elevator together with the table so that we know when the elevator be activated."

It seems that the rights of the disabled are not violated everywhere. However, if a person in a wheelchair gets offended, he or she has a thorny way to go.

"It is the responsibility of local authorities to ensure access to all buildings. So it is worth complaining to MInsk City Hall," advises Іryna Marchanka, consultant on the affairs of disabled people at the Ministry of Labor and Social Security. 

Euroradio: Can you recall someone being punished for the situation like the one with the famous paralympics athlete?

Iryna Marchanka: "No, I can't."