Blind singer wins over UK bureaucrats

After protesting against UK Border Agency rules for being discriminatory against the handicapped, blind singer Diana Gurtskaya has finally succeeded in obtaining a British visa after the embassy revised its rules.

“Changes have been made in the rules and I’m glad it happened. I don’t think it all happened thanks to me, but the fact that the situation has changed because of me makes me feel happy. And now all people with disabilities can breathe a sign of relief. There are many people with limited abilities who want to travel, want to live. Our dark glasses and some disabilities are part of our life,” Diana Gurtskaya said in an exclusive interview with RT.

The popular blind Georgian singer residing in Russia and her husband finally received visas to Britain. Earlier she demanded an apology from the country’s ambassador in Moscow as she found one of the procedures for getting a visa humiliating for people with limited abilities.

“I was able to stand for myself. My husband is a lawyer. But there are people who can’t and if they come face to face with such problems they will simply retire into themselves. They won’t raise scandals, but will live in small ghetto communities, thinking no one needs them, no one protects them. I think I’m a brave person and can stand for them,” Gurtskaya said.

The British Embassy in Moscow last week asked Gurtskaya to provide a digital photograph without her dark glasses and also required her to undergo a biometric eye scan in order to receive a visa.

“I was angry. Very angry. I travel a lot. I’ve been to America, Spain, Israel, Canada, and many other countries, but I’ve never ever been in such a situation. As we know there’s a Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which Great Britain was eager to sign. I was surprised that this could happen.”

The singer wrote a letter of complaint to British Ambassador Anne Pringle. She wanted an apology for the demands that she has found humiliating and cited the rights of individuals with limited abilities included in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

“I can’t help mentioning the fact that the British embassy did its best to resolve the situation in a positive way. They replied to our letters and even the British Ambassador sent her letter of apology, explaining why it all happened.”

Pringle investigated the incident and then she informed Gurtskaya that the UK Border Agency had issued new instructions in receiving documents and formulating visas for people with physical handicaps. She also noted that the situation would have been treated “with greater tact,” but she insisted the officers didn’t demand a biometric eye scan, but only a clear digital full-face picture.

Gurtskaya, 29, has a number of international awards, including a 2007 Russian Honorable Artist award given to her by then-President Vladimir Putin, a Medal of Honor given to her by Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, and the Award of Saint Barbara in Ukraine.

She has recorded duets with various well-known foreign singers including Ray Charles, Toto Cutugno, and Demis Roussos.