In Baghdad, most buildings aren’t wheelchair accessible. Frustrated, a group of people with disabilities decided to take matters into their own hands and build wheelchair ramps in the most visited parts of the capital.
Quhtan al-Muhanna used to work as an administrator before he retired. He uses a wheelchair to get around, so he knows firsthand how much of a challenge that can be in Baghdad. He joined forces with a group of about 15 friends to start an initiative that builds wheelchair ramps around the capital.
"Even the headquarters of the national committee tasked with helping people with disabilities doesn’t have a ramp”
My friends and I realized that the headquarters of the national committee tasked with assisting people with disabilities is not accessible — even though many people who use wheelchairs go there to turn in requests for benefits.
We raised some money and bought a bag of cement, a bit of sand and some gravel, then we got to work. In one day alone, we built six wheelchair ramps.
We realised that the authorities were not going to take the initiative themselves to make ministries accessible. The state doesn’t do much for us. They marginalise us. So we decided to do it ourselves.
A week later, on Friday, May 26, we met again at the entrance to Al-Mustansiriyah University, the oldest university in Iraq. We have friends who study there and who find it extremely difficult to get onto the sidewalks there or to access different buildings. So we put in two ramps at the entrance to campus and four others within the campus.
We are also planning to build ramps in Zaoura Park, which is the biggest park in Baghdad and is home to a theme park and a zoo.
The idea behind our project is simple. We want to install ramps all across Baghdad to allow people with disabilities to feel like the city is their own and to give them the possibility of moving about freely. We are planning on building ramps in mosques, universities, ministries and hospitals.
For that, we need more resources. We welcome any donation. Each ramp costs us between 10,000 and 15,000 Iraqi dinars [Editor’s note: between eight and 10 euros].
We also welcome all the help we can get! People can come get their hands dirty or bring a bag of cement or gravel. Feel free to contact us via Facebook.
In 2013, Iraq adopted a law guaranteeing rights for people with disabilities. It included plans to make all public buildings accessible. The law requires public companies to make sure that 5 percent of its total workforce are people with disabilities. However, much remains to be done. The government has only just started (on May 21) giving disability benefits to those in need.