In the Village of Talgar, Visually Impaired Residents Receive a Walkway

November 17, 2021
Karlygash stands with the new, accessible walkway in Talgar

In Kazakhstan, an estimated 70 percent of public infrastructure is inaccessible to people with disabilities. Karlygash Kulzhanova’s hometown of Talgar is no exception. Recognizing the danger posed by lack of accessible public spaces, Karlygash teamed up with fellow disability rights advocates to push for change.

Karlygash with her children

To start, Karlygash and her colleagues mobilized a needs assessment by the Kazakh Society of the Blind. Based on these results, they decided to target areas that lacked walkways for visually impaired residents. Accessible walkways, they believed, would result in safer movement and wayfinding across streets for people with disabilities throughout the city.

In partnership with Samga-N, a local disability rights organization, Karlygash applied for an Innovative Solutions Grant from USAID’s Social Innovation in Central Asia program, implemented by Eurasia Foundation. In February 2021, Karlygash participated in a focus group uniting local stakeholders, including the vice-akim for the Talgar region, a representative from the Talgar municipal government, representatives of the road commission and department of civic works, the director of Samga-N, and fellow concerned citizens. Together, they decided on a location for a new accessible walkway, to be constructed along a main throughway in Talgar.

Following project approval in early June, Karlygash and local volunteers got to work. “We drew up an estimate, searched for suppliers, and waded through all the deadlines and paperwork. The price of materials increased following our initial assessment, but that didn’t stop us.”

After completing construction, Karlygash and her team proudly painted the walkway. By late July, the project was complete. “We did it!” exclaims Karlygash. “The walkway runs along the road Baluan-Sholak, which aligns closely with the local industrial zone, and is located near the Kazakh Society of the Blind. It directly reaches several homes of people with disabilities.

“The walkway is a great success,” says Karlygash, beaming. “We continue to monitor the area for additional work, yet this project has brought great joy to the inhabitants of Talgar. Thanks to the support of USAID, the citizens of Talgar recognize that we too can be activists and champions of people with disabilities in our community.”