They opened with much fanfare, but one key factor was overlooked. The 21st century upgrade to the stairs between Peizazhna Alley (Landscape Alley) and the Honchari-Kozhumyaki area leading to Andriivsky Descent was unveiled by Mayor Vitali Klitschko in July. He and other city officials lauded the opening, which – like an 80’s American TV show – starred “in alphabetical order”: alarm buttons, CCTV, LED lighting, observation decks, and WiFi.
It isn’t the 80’s and the ‘star’ that possibly should have received lead billing in the alphabetical opening credits was ‘accessibility’. That is something disability advocate and Paralympian Dmytro Schebetyuk of Dostypno.ua put to the test when he attempted to use the stairs in August – it proved impossible. Schebetyuk, who uses a wheelchair, and is known for his work to improve accessibility for people with disabilities across Kyiv, published a tongue-in-cheek video of his attempts to negotiate the stairs as What’s On went to print last month.
His point is simple. The multi-million UAH upgrade – the first in more than half-a-century – to a track that has been used for more than a millennium and runs over 200 metres, and has a gruelling 247 steps (even for the most able-bodied) and, as he puts it, you’d think in 2018 other factors might have been considered. They weren’t.
While the overall reaction to the upgrade was positive, people were quick to point out on social media that alongside people who have issues with mobility, the steps were also unfriendly to mothers with strollers, and to cyclists.
Kyiv City Administration officials hit back, arguing the slope is too steep to make ramps or other forms of access feasible or economically viable. Meanwhile, the steps are part of a wider plan to construct a tourist trail through the historic centre that links to Volodymyrska Hill and on to Druzhbi Narodiv (Friendship of Nations) Arch.
As work progresses, Schebetyuk, and others, will be watching.