ABCs are important, and when it comes to public spaces in the 21st century there is one ‘A’ that should always be considered – ‘accessibility’.
It is a slope that has been traversed either up or down by Kyiv residents for more than 1 000 years. Last month, the steps that connect Peizazhna Alley (Landscape Alley) with the Honchari-Kozhumyaki area and leading to Andriivskiy Descent in Podil were reopened following their first upgrade in more than half-a-century to much fanfare and back-patting by city officials.
The 200-metre, 247-step stairs have been given a multi-million UAH and very 21st century upgrade: LED lighting has been installed in the handrails; there are observation decks; the surrounding slope has been landscaped; alarm buttons and CCTV cameras have been installed. There is even Wi-Fi.
It has all the bells and whistles and has already become a favourite spot for snapping many a selfie – but only if you are physically able. The glaring omission is access for people with disabilities, mothers with strollers, and even cyclists, prompting rapid reaction to the newly unveiled climb on social media.
Well-known Kyiv activist Dmytro Schebetyuk, of disability advocacy organisation Dostypho.Ua, who uses a wheelchair, late last month vowed on the organisation’s Facebook page to test the stairs. He has yet to do so.
Meanwhile, Kyiv City Administration officials have hit back at criticism, arguing the slope is simply too steep to make installing ramps, or constructing other forms of access, feasible. However, with the steps being part of a wider plan to construct a tourist trail through the historic centre, linking to Volodymyrska Hill and on to Druzhbi Narodiv (Friendship of Nations) Arch, we wonder if these concerns will be taken on board by the city in the next phases of the project.