Activist Helps Make Concerts Accessible for People with Disabilities

Speeches Shim

Wednesday, December 2, 2020
Dmytro Schebetiuk, the activist who helps make concerts accessible for people with disabilities

At the age of 21 Dmytro Schebetiuk seriously injured his spine and wound up in a wheelchair. Ten years after the accident, he succeeded in winning a swimming championship in Ukraine and was good enough to join Ukraine’s Paralympic archery team reserve. And he still found time to become a TV entertainer and host several popular TV shows! He also co-founded the public initiative Dostupno.UA, which inspects various facilities for accessibility for  people with disabilities. Today Dmytro is working with All-Ukrainian Association of Music Events, a USAID partner, developing the festival culture towards inclusion, environmental awareness, and civic activism. 

According to official statistics, there are 2.7 million people with disabilities living in Ukraine. During the pandemic, their access to health care, education, social protection, labor, and employment are severely restricted, and quarantine conditions have significantly exacerbated their isolation and alienation, making it almost impossible to take part in cultural life and leisure activities. A series of online music events initiated with USAID support in 2020 by the All-Ukrainian Association of Music Events became a much needed solution, providing a message of hope and feeling of inclusion to people with disabilities. 

In September, the Association decided to transform the iconic music festival, Respublica FEST, which is held in Schebetiuk’s hometown of Kamianets Podilsky, into a truly inclusive online event. In addition to live video streaming, 50 avatars – public opinion influencers and volunteers – some representing the PWDs, LGBT+ communities and other vulnerable groups, moved around the festival with cameras attached to their heads, broadcasting live videos from a first-person point of view. Schebetiuk joined the organizing team as an accessibility expert. Respublica FEST turned out to be a truly unique experience for him.

"The coolest thing about this year’s festival was that it united non-disabled artists and artists with disabilities on one stage” says Dmytro.  

The festival takes place annually at the fortress in Dmytro’s  hometown, which is not fully accessible. Volunteers worked to make it accessible, building toilets for people with disabilities and equipping the stage with a comfortable ramp. 

“This year I was invited to perform there, and for me it was a dream that came. It gave me a strong impetus to take up music more seriously. I hope that I will return there," says Dmytro.