Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Widespread but Illegal Discrimination against Those with Mental or Physical Limitations Sparks Outrage in Russia

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 20 – A horrific case in Volgograd has led to discussions on the Internet involving hundreds of Russians about the widespread but entirely illegal discrimination visited by restaurants, stores, and recreation facilities in the Russian Federation, and attention to this problem is forcing prosecutors to move more quickly to punish those responsible.

            Cases of discrimination against people with mental and physical limitations are frequent, Yevgeniya Semyonova says in the current issue of SovershennoSekretno; but their impact is usually limited. Individuals complain and sometimes the authorities do intervene to enforce the law (

            But a recent case has touched a nerve, and the Internet has allowed the parents of an 14-year-old autistic child to reach thousands, many of whom have reacted with outrage and demanded that the authorities do their job and protect the most defenseless members of Russian society.

            The parents of 14-year-old Damir drove 500 kilometers from Astrakhan to Volgograd just so their son could visit an aquapark there. Damir loves the water, and psychologists say playing in it is not only relaxing but helps the autistic to deal with their problems. So everything seemed set for a wonderful outing.

            But on arrival, Damir and his parents faced problems. There was no parking nearby as there is supposed to be for those with special needs. And then when the three of them reached the entrance kiosk, they were turned down because the clerks said that an autistic child could be a threat to others or to himself.

            The parents pointed out that this was absurd and that they were there with Damir to make sure that nothing of the kind could happen. But the situation escalated. Park managers backed up their clerk, and the parents used their cellphone to record a video of all that was taking place to keep their child from the water.

            The parents then posted that video online along with an explanation of what had happened and turned to prosecutors. The waterpark management refused to back down although it did offer as an alternative a place in a room where Damir could be isolated from the rest of those visiting the facility.

            Prosecutors have not yet indicated what they will do, but an investigation is proceeding, pushed along by hundreds if not thousands of supportive comments by Russians who have seen the video clip. And the upshot in this case is this: the aquapark has supposedly closed “for renovations;” but many believe it is because it has destroyed its reputation as a result of this case.

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