Ukraine’s Visually Impaired Citizens Face Difficulty Amid Russian Missile Strikes

by Gabriel Martinez
visually impaired

Light from the broken windows softly illuminates the dust-covered furniture and shattered glass littering Oleksandr Vinkovskyi’s office floor. He is the director of a Kyiv-based company where visually impaired individuals were employed.

Blind himself, Vinkovskyi cannot directly observe the destruction brought on by the debris from a drone, launched by Russia, which hit the Ukrainian capital last month. Yet, he is acutely aware that 80 people, including 54 workers with disabilities who previously produced circuit breakers, sockets, and hangers, are now unemployed.

With most windows smashed, doors damaged, equipment destroyed, and a large hole marking the wall on the third floor, Vinkovskyi has temporarily shut down operations, considering the environment too hazardous for his staff.

“Going to work for a visually impaired individual isn’t just about earning a living; it’s also about social interaction and integration into society,” Vinkovskyi shared. “The extent of this loss is hard to quantify.”

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Loss of employment is just one of the numerous hardships faced by visually impaired individuals across Ukraine since the onset of Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022. The struggles have amplified in the last month as Russia primarily targeted the capital during the night, complicating orientation for visually impaired people.

“Visually impaired individuals can’t pinpoint where an explosion has occurred. Each explosion feels like it’s in their own home,” explained Vinkovskyi. “The unknown extent of the damage adds extra stress.”

The enhanced auditory sensitivity that visually impaired individuals rely on for navigating their environment can, during such incidents, cause heightened anxiety and distress. Larysa Baida, program director of the National Assembly of People with Disabilities of Ukraine, mentions that such situations can trigger panic states. To mitigate this, her organization is providing psychological support and rehabilitation to the visually impaired affected by the war.

“I’m still disoriented and trying to make sense of it all,” recounted Volodymyr Holubenko, a blind 62-year-old administrator at the company. His home close to the facility, he remembers the terror of the attack day vividly.

Holubenko, a 47-year veteran of the company, says that May was a difficult month, but he feels safer this year compared to the early stages of the war. He keenly follows news about Ukraine’s Western allies’ promise to supply anti-aircraft defense systems and eagerly anticipates their arrival.

Olesia Perepechenko, the blind executive director of the non-governmental organization Modern Sight, says she can hear the incoming missiles and explosions before her husband, mother, or anyone else.

“These sounds reach me a bit earlier, as does the anxiety. Hence, my agitation tends to be quite acute,” Perepechenko said.

Living in the Kyiv province, she found Russia’s nightly attacks in May particularly harrowing.

“When Shaheds incessantly fly overhead, and the drone noise never ceases, it’s maddening. Why are they hovering over our house?” she shared, speaking of the Iranian-made drones that Russia regularly sends into Ukraine.

She finds the psychological toll of the situation “extremely frightening” and challenging to cope with.

“In those moments, I cry, seek comfort in my mother, hug her and console her, or lean on my husband for support.”

After a May attack, she sought relief in a tub of ice cream from her freezer.

“In that moment, I craved some comforting, pleasant experience. I thought ice cream might help, though I later turned to valerian,” she confessed, speaking of a common sedative.

“People with visual impairment or blindness are disproportionately affected by the war,” said Ariane Laplante-Lévesque, the technical specialist in Eye, Vision, Ear, and Hearing Care at the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for Europe. Among other things, they find it harder to navigate streets and unfamiliar physical environments, she added.

Perepechenko remembers one winter during Russia’s heavy missile strikes aimed at Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. A power outage caused by the strikes left her trapped in an elevator.

“I felt like I was going to suffocate to death,” she remembered.

Since then, she has been attending therapy to deal with the ongoing fears for her life due to the war. The sessions have been beneficial, and she plans to keep living in her country, despite the constant turmoil of war.

She also recalls the hazards she faced navigating Kyiv and the nearby village where she lives when Russian troops retreated last year.

“Walking was impossible. As I navigated with my cane, I kept encountering anti-tank traps and burnt debris on the sidewalks,” she said. “It was incredibly dangerous and frightening.”

Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://bigbignews.net/russia-ukraine.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about visually impaired, Russian attacks, struggles, Ukraine

What challenges do visually impaired people in Ukraine face during Russian missile attacks?

Visually impaired people in Ukraine face numerous challenges during Russian missile attacks. The destruction caused by the attacks, such as shattered windows and damaged infrastructure, makes it difficult for them to navigate their surroundings. The heightened auditory sensitivity of visually impaired individuals also amplifies their fear and distress during explosions. The loss of employment due to damaged workplaces adds to their struggles. Psychological support and rehabilitation programs are being provided to help them cope with the effects of the war.

More about visually impaired, Russian attacks, struggles, Ukraine

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JohnDoe123 June 15, 2023 - 1:22 pm

This is such an important issue that often gets overlooked. Visually impaired individuals in Ukraine are not only dealing with the devastation caused by missile attacks but also struggling to navigate their surroundings without proper support. They deserve more attention and assistance.

AmyG June 15, 2023 - 10:38 pm

It’s heartbreaking to read about the struggles faced by visually impaired people in Ukraine during the war. The fear and distress caused by the explosions, the loss of employment, and the challenges in navigating their surroundings make their lives incredibly difficult. They need all the support they can get.


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