The polite phrase in Russian for people with developmental disabilities is directly translated as "people with limited possibilities." But what possibilities are actually limited for such people? This series of photographs aims to challenge the notion of inherent limitation by showing that people with disabilities are living deep, full lives with rich experiences.
A stark contrast to the lives of most people with developmental disabilities in Russia
Svetlana, the social village (also known as Camphill), is located in the Volkhovsky area of Russia's Leningrad region. It offers people with intellectual disabilities, autism, Down syndrome and other developmental issues a true alternative to the institutionalization of such people that is used throughout Russia.
Vasya, Sveta, Sergei, Yulia, Anna, Sasha and others (in the village they are called "residents") show how much they are capable of - working, cooking, cleaning, playing music, dancing, singing, anger, love, exhaustion, excitement, friendship - a full range of life's possibilities and emotions.
Their lives at Svetlana stand in stark contrast to the lives of most people with such disabilities in Russia, who have no possibility to work or participate in society.
Principle of Common Help
In the village, the residents learn not only how to provide for and take care of themselves, but also to work every day for others.
The fundamental principle of life in the village is common help, with each person trying to accomplish his or her tasks in order to help support everyone.
Svetlana was founded in 1992, under the initiative of a mother with a child with developmental disabilities. Groups from Norway supported the creation of the village, lending their own experience working with people with disabilities and giving financial support for delivery and construction of its buildings.
The success of Svetlana has inspired another project near Moscow, Chistiye Kluchi, that opened in the summer of 2012. It is possible that after Russia's accession to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in April 2012, possibilities for people with disabilities may be increasing in the future.
The example of Svetlana shows that it is possible to create alternative institutions and places for living, which help people with special needs to move beyond the boundaries of "limited possibility."