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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Without Your Health, Money Isn't an Option

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Lyudmila Kostina was denied entry to a Samara nightclub on Feb. 5 because she is confined to a wheelchair. In places like the Karachayevo-Cherkessia and Novosibirsk regions, stocks of Cyclodol -- a medicine needed by people with psychiatric and serious nervous disorders -- have nearly run out. The problem developed when pharmaceutical companies stopped making the drug and state officials failed to warn doctors.

Kostina's case is probably an exception, if because only disabled people rarely go to nightclubs in Russia, especially with monthly disability pensions of 2,178 rubles, or about $85. But the reaction of the club's security staff and administration, who tried everything in their power to prevent Kostina from entering, and to separate her from the other patrons, was all too typical.

The importance of the problem grows larger when we look at official statistics, which show that the number of Russians with disabilities is increasing at a rate of 1.4 million to 1.7 million per year, reaching a total of 12.5 million in 2006. As much as 35 percent of those classified as invalids are of working age.

The ideal solution would be to help the disabled live lives as normal as possible. But according to the Health and Social Development Ministry, disability payments to handicapped adults barely reach 63 percent of the official subsistence-level income, which is itself unrealistically low. People with physical disabilities encounter countless barriers such as stairs and entrances that obstruct their movement and ability to lead a normal life. Not even World War II veterans, rendered disabled while defending their country, qualify for government-issued automobiles designed specially for the handicapped.

The clearest sign that the state makes no effort to help those disabled trying to help themselves is that only 15 percent of the country's officially handicapped have jobs.

By comparison, 35 percent of disabled people in the United States work, and 40 percent in both Great Britain and France have jobs. In developed countries, employers are required to hire a specific number of disabled people -- in France the figure is 6 percent of the workforce. Should a French employer not meet this criterion, the firm must pay a significant fine to the Social Welfare Ministry in compensation.

At issue here are not only gains that can be made by tapping the labor potential of a significant percentage of the population. The popular saying "It is better to be rich and healthy than poor and ill" appears to present the only options available. People with disabilities almost automatically lose out on a range of opportunities available to most others.

This comment appeared in Vedomosti as an editorial.