On the occasion of Zero Discrimination Day, the UN launches an external elevator to make its premises accessible to all visitors

On 1 March 2017, the United Nations in the Republic of Moldova has inaugurated an elevator that facilitates the access to all four floors of its headquarters in Chisinau, located on 131, 31 August 1989 Street. Since 1994, the UN House hosts several agencies, funds and programs of the United Nations, the ground floor being accessible since 2004.

With the support of the UN headquarters in New York, in 2016-2017, an external elevator was built for the benefit of people with disabilities, as well as pregnant women, elderly people, as well as the staff bringing periodically heavy objects on different floors.

“One of the objectives of this initiative is to spread the word and promote change beyond the UN. We want to walk the talk and lead by example so that other employers see the value of diversity and open up their organizations to all groups in society – including the marginalized. We in the UN have learned tremendously from this initiative and one of the most important insights is that many changes do not require big budgets, but rather a change of attitude”, says Dafina Gercheva, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in the Republic of Moldova.

The elevator buttons contain Braille characters, which enables its use by visually impaired persons. At the same time, the buttons have light and audio signalling devices. The elevator is roomy to allow the access for a wheelchair user and an accompanying person. The cost of this pilot project amounts to over USD 85,000.

Building this elevator is part of a broader diversity initiative, addressing intolerance and discrimination.

“There is a need to invest and create comfortable conditions for all persons, without any discrimination. Everything that is being refurbished is for the benefit of people. These conditions reflect the attitude that each person should have towards people with disabilities”, states Gheorghe Suruceanu, Director of Diplomatic Corps Service Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of the Republic of Moldova.

In order to ensure accessibility for persons with visual impairments, a tactile pavement has been installed in the UN House, guiding the employees or visitors on the institution’s territory. So far, such a pavement has been placed just outside the building.

“I took part in a testing exercise of the optimization works done at the UN House. Being a person with low vision, it was very important for me to know that my opinion was taken into account. Now there are contrasts in place, bigger inscriptions, tactile paving and balustrades. This accessible space is an example for all public and private buildings in the country”, mentions Tatiana Goras.

Moreover, the UN House has adapted the sanitary blocks/toilets. Furthermore, the tableware from the institution’s kitchen is brightly colored, being accessible for people with low vision.

Before deciding on the measures to improve accessibility, the UN has held consultations with the prospective beneficiaries of this change. “When it comes to accessibility, no one can identify the issues requiring adjustment better than people facing these challenges in everyday life. During these consultations, we have realized that the psychological barriers can be as painful as physical barriers and that many changes do not require big budgets, but rather a change of attitude”, says Ira Cebotari, UNDP Moldova Head of Operations, who coordinated the UN House infrastructure optimization component.

Now, several public and private institutions have shown interest in learning more about this pilot project to optimize physical accessibility. The UN intends to give priority to institutions that are accessible in its business relations.

“This initiative is welcome for the entire municipality. This elevator demonstrates that everything is possible and we hope that this pilot project will become an example to follow. The city hall has committed to ensure accessibility in all new buildings. We want to install tactile paving and audible traffic lights, to make Chisinau accessible for everyone”, mentions Nistor Grozavu, deputy mayor of Chisinau.

In July 2010, the Republic of Moldova ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which indicates the state's obligations to ensure the physical accessibility for people with disabilities. At the same time, Law no. 60 on social inclusion of persons with disabilities contains provisions on physical accessibility.

In 2016, the UN in Moldova launched the first internship program in the country for people less represented in the organization. 12 interns successfully completed this program. UN will soon launch a new round of this initiative.