On this day designated as “International Day for People with Disabilities” by the United Nations, we are tasked with pausing to remember the struggles those with disabilities face in their every day lives and to collectively work to support the rights and well-being of these people in society.
The annual day is also aimed to increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.
Two years ago, on this same day, a Greek American entrepreneur from Crete named Alexandra Manousakis released a short film called Respect Life that changed a lot of people’s perspectives on the issue.
Alexandra, who is an artist in Hania and also owns and operates the Manousakis Winery with her husband Afshin, assembled a team and raised the necessary funds from some help at the Pancretan Association of America and created a short film called “Respect Life.”
One of the things missing the most from Alexandra’s life after moving to Greece, she told The Pappas Post— and that was her sister Tatyana— Taty, as the family calls her.
Taty was born with Cerebral Palsy and is confined to a wheelchair. She lives in a care home in New Jersey and her family trips across the Atlantic to spend time with Alexandra are few and far between— not only because of the difficulties of travel, but also because of the unwelcoming environment in Greece for people with mobility issues.
“Why hasn’t she been able to come to Crete? The trip from the U.S. is quite long but the main issue is that Crete is not properly equipped to welcome people in wheelchairs. The infrastructure and the mentality here have not yet been challenged in the way that they should be in order to accommodate people with mobility issues,” Alexandra said.
Despite this, Alexandra insisted that Taty visit Crete the summer of 2015 to attend her wedding and the family’s worst fears came true.
It became next to impossible to move Taty around in her wheelchair in Hania. Alexandra called it a “harsh slap in the face” and rather than complain about it or post photos on social media of cars blocking handicapped access ramps and coffee shops blocking sidewalks with illegal outdoor tables and chairs, she decided to do something about it.
Alexandra launched #RespectLife, a new movement aiming to spread awareness about the challenges that people with mobility issues face in Hania.
She hopes the project will open people’s eyes— from drivers who block ramps when they park, to business owners who block sidewalks— and change the mentality of the people in the city who have yet to be challenged with the sensitivities of people with mobility issues and their families.
The short film “My Brother” was the first major launch of the #RespectLife campaign and quickly went viral on various platforms, assembling almost 10 million views across Facebook, YouTube and dozens of news sites and blogs where it was shared.
Watch the short film “My Brother”
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