Why Ukraine needs more Web accessibility: implication for veterans and their role in the future Ukrainian society

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Institute of Innovative Governance


Ukraine is the country with one of the largest veteran populations in the world. While data are still fragmented due to the ongoing war of Russian aggression, the number of people with the veteran status is estimated to be at least 1.2 million, with 400,000 veterans of the Anti-Terrorist operations (ATO) warfare. It is not a surprise that various studies show that the reintegration of veterans was particularly complicated before the full-scale aggression.However, the devastation caused by the war in 2022-2023, coupled with the emerging economic challenges that Ukraine will confront in the future, present new hurdles to overcome.

According to the results of the Twenty-fourth nationwide survey titled "Ukraine in the conditions of war," carried out by the Sociological Group "Rating" in partnership with the "Ukrainian Veteran Fund" under the Ministry of Veterans Affairs of Ukraine, 49% of Ukrainians indicated that they had close relatives and loved ones serving. It's important to note that Ukrainians have a deep trust in their veterans. A striking 94% express trust in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the same percentage trust veterans of the ongoing war, and 93% trust veterans of the ATO, that took place from 2014 to 2021.

The key challenges that veterans of the Russian-Ukrainian war may confront upon returning from their service include issues like psychological and emotional instability, physical health concerns, difficulties accessing medical care, a lack of inclusive spaces and workplaces for individuals with disabilities, and challenges related to accessing social benefits. Respondents also see the following problems as likely to some extent: family conflicts, unemployment, a lack of societal understanding, the disconnect between military experience and civilian life, and substance abuse, including alcohol and drugs.

Additionally, there has been a historical problem of public perception among veteran communities. Data from IMO shows that nearly half of veterans (49%) from the ATO reported experiencing bias or unfair treatment from various members of their communities, particularly in public transport, medical facilities, and social support institutions. A study presented in Kyiv on January 23 highlights that 32% of veterans feel excluded from society, and 73% believe that their experiences are only truly understood by those with a military background.

Various efforts to reintegrate veterans into society in Ukraine are ongoing. For example, the UNDP recently organised a series of training sessions for professionals working with veterans with disabilities in communities. The Ukrainian Government has also begun to give more attention to this issue. In September 2023, they launched a pilot program offering free vocational education for combatants and individuals with war-related disabilities. This pilot project aims to enhance competitiveness in the job market and facilitate greater employment opportunities for war veterans and persons with disabilities who were affected during the conflict.

In light of the experiences during the conflict, three crucial elements must be at the forefront of efforts to integrate war veterans into Ukraine's future. First and foremost, activities focused on social inclusion should be carried out over an extended period to prevent the recurrence of negative patterns witnessed in the past. While the support for the military is currently robust in Ukraine, there is a possibility that the situation may change in the future, and both current and future veterans might encounter challenges in their long-term reintegration into society. It is essential to plan for extended reintegration initiatives, ensuring that soldiers have enduring social inclusion. This can be achieved, for instance, by integrating them into vocational education programs and offering other ongoing training opportunities.

Secondly, it is of particular importance that veterans with disabilities and other medical conditions can easily access public services and government websites. This accessibility is critical to prevent their exclusion and overreliance on family and caregivers. To achieve this, it is imperative that all public websites and digital services in Ukraine are constructed with a strong emphasis on digital accessibility. Therefore, compliance to international standards such as WCAG 2.1 should be a central pillar of Ukraine's digital future.

Lastly, Ukrainian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the private sector should continue their dedicated focus on developing new initiatives and reintegration projects for veterans with disabilities. Through these efforts, Ukrainian veterans will be empowered to actively participate in society and reduce their dependence solely on state support. And this would be beneficial for Ukraine as a whole.

Let's make Ukraine inclusive and accessible for everyone!

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