Natalia Vodianova, the supermodel and philanthropist, has taken Russia’s discussion of disabilities to a new level after her younger sister, Oksana, who has autism and cerebral palsy, was seriously mistreated at a cafe in Nizhny Novgorod.
“Suddenly the owner of the cafe came and rudely demanded [of Oksana’s caretaker]: ‘Go away, you are scaring away our clients. Go and make your child healthy and then come out into public,’” Vodianova said, describing the event.
The rights of people with disabilities have always been a low priority in Russia, where most public spaces fail to provide wheelchair access and where discrimination is common. But the involvement of a celebrity immediately propelled the discussion onto national television. Overzealous investigators launched a criminal probe against the cafe, but the family asked that the case be closed, instead inviting all cafe employees to have tea at the local center for special needs children run by Vodianova’s Naked Heart foundation.
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