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After the Institution: Experiences of People with Disabilities in Russian Cities

Andrea Mazzarino
Friday, February 23, 2018 - 12:00pm
The D center (Mary Gates Hall 024)

Please join us for our fourth Disability Studies Brown Bag talk of Winter 2018!

Abstract: Millions of people with disabilities live in closed institutions throughout Russia. Children and adults who are blind, deaf, who live with developmental disabilities such as Down syndrome, who have depression, or who have physical disabilities, spend their childhoods in orphanages or adult institutions (internaty), based on doctors’ belief that they are unable to make contributions to Russian society. While living in institutions, many of these people are subject to abuse and neglect. During research that I conducted with Human Rights Watch during 2012-2015, I traveled to eight cities throughout Russia, and spoke with hundreds of children and young people who had spent time in orphanages and internaty. They described abuses such as beatings; segregation from other residents and from family members in their surrounding communities; and forced sedation to control behavior, as well as denial of opportunities to go to school, to eat a range of foods, and to play and socialize. This presentation documents some of the findings of my research documenting peoples’ experiences in institutions, and the policies, attitudes, and laws that reinforce the continued segregation of Russian people with disabilities from the rest of society. I then outline my plans to return to Russia in late 2018 and document NGO and government efforts to support people with disabilities in leaving institutions and re-integrating into surrounding cities. The project aims to shed broader light on the vital role of social visibility in making cities more disability-accessible.

Bio: Andrea Mazzarino is a master’s student at the University of Washington’s School of Social Work. She received her PhD in cultural anthropology from Brown University in 2010, and has spent the past seven years teaching and conducting research in academia and within human rights NGOs. As a research fellow with Human Rights Watch during 2012-2015, Andrea wrote three reports on the experiences of Russian children and adults living with disabilities, and advocated with colleagues for stronger rights protections for this population.

Accessibility info: CART captioning and ASL interpretation have been requested for this event. The D Center is wheelchair accessible and is a scent-free space.

Contact info: Jose Alaniz, jos23 at

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