Sunday

20th Aug 2017

Focus

Romanian IT developer: 'Stairs never stopped me'

  • 'State and family can help you only to a point: a lot depends on you' (Photo: Iulian Craciun)

To get to the first floor of a 19-century villa in the diplomatic quarter of Bucharest, the staircase winds narrowly like a snail house and there is no elevator. Thirty-three-year old Iulian Craciun sits in the office on the left, tapping away on a laptop and with a tablet computer nearby. His body looks frail, in the wheelchair, but his mind and sense of humour are sharp.

"Stairs never stopped me. If they had, I wouldn't have gotten anywhere, would I?" the IT developer quips. The office he works from belongs to one of the best known head hunters in Bucharest. Craciun has also worked for firms like BMW, Nestle, various banks and even Romania's top football club Steaua.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

With spinal muscular atrophy - a genetic disease disrupting brain impulses - his muscles are weak and he is wheelchair-bound. But that has not stopped him from taking trips abroad or hiking with friends in the mountains. "Never give up" is his favourite motto. Three years ago, he got married and now he has a one-year old daughter.

He's come a long way. Growing up in the bleakest years of communist Romania, there were several medical glitches - such as hooking him up to a respirator when he got pneumonia, but forgetting to turn it on. "I was operated once and then they gave me anti-biotics I was allergic to. So I went into coma. They gave me glucose, which worked. Only, they gave me too much and I re-entered the coma," he recalls.

Medical treatment has changed since communism times. An operation he had in 2009 inserting 1m-long metal rods along his spine clearly helped and allows him to breathe without a corset. "It's also technology that evolved, not just the doctors. First operations reduced my body weight by 40 percent, even though they were less invasive as this one. This time, I only lost 1.5 kg," Craciun explains.

But most of his success he owes to his mother, who insisted he should go to school, despite his condition. "It was thanks to her perseverance that I am here. She did it out of instinct, but it was very good. The first teacher she went to told her I should be put in a 'special' school for disabled people. Which meant a school for mentally disabled. She refused and finally found a teacher who accepted me."

"There was no moment in school when I felt different. Kids are curious, so it matters a lot how you deal with that. If you're honest about it and don't make a big deal out of it, they accept you as you are. Surely there are people who will try to make fun of you, but that happens to everyone, not only to disabled people."

Romania's current social problems are for "people in general, not just disabled ones. The state can and should do more for disabled people, but if we wait for that, our lives would have gone by. Do what you can now for yourself, don't worry about what the state should do," Craciun says.

The worst problem of Romania's society is not corruption, brain-drain or poverty, he believes, but rather self-fulfilling prophecies. "Too many people are saying 'I can't do that, I have no connections.' Or 'nobody is helping me. I can't do it, because my voice doesn't matter anyway.' Giving up at the first door that closes."

He has experienced closed doors himself, particularly in his 20s when looking for a job. "The moment I showed up and they saw me, I was getting the standard 'sorry, but the job is already taken.' Of course it wasn't, they just didn't want anyone in a wheelchair." But after knocking on dozens of doors, he got hired by Dunarea leasing, at that time the third-largest leasing company in the country.

He also set up his own business together with a friend and started having prominent customers. "Sometimes I ended up working with people who had said no when I went for a job interview. They were pretty embarrassed. I wasn't. Just took their money," he smiles.

With Romanian media filled with scandals and small issues, Craciun says the post-Communist society is failing to establish positive models. Resignation and disgruntlement has become a national sport. "If your role-models are gold chain-wearing guys who crack sunflower seeds and get into fights all the time, that's what the society will follow. If your role model does smart things and generates work feeding 20 other families, others will try to copy that."

To put his money where his mouth is, Craciun has teamed up with two other friends and launched a motivational website, Startevo offering career advice through personal 'mentors' and videos with Romanian success stories.

The online community pooling around this website also helped him earlier this year, when he got hit by an SUV while at a pedestrian crossing. "The guy just rushed off, but the Startevo community was of tremendous help. Within one day, our site had over one million views and people sent us things like licence plate numbers and pictures of the car. A few days later, he turned himself in to the police and now he's on trial," Craciun says.

So much for the naysayers who told him it would not make any difference if he started that website or not.

Brussels wants common disabled benefits across Europe

The 80 million Europeans with some form of disability should not see their benefits disappear should they cross a border within the EU, the European Commission believes and is considering ensuring such barriers disappear by the end of the decade.

Disability in Europe

Already at the margins of society as a result of casual discrimination, disabled people are among the worst hit by the waves of austerity measures being put in place right across the European Union. Read more in EUobserver's November Focus.

Phone apps to boost access for disabled Europeans

Life on the road for people with disabilities may become just a little bit easier after the winners of the first ever Vodafone Foundation Smart Accessibility Awards for easy-access smartphone apps were announced on Monday evening.

For many, the Internet remains a mystery

Despite commitments made and resolutions adopted, the vast majority of websites, public and private, are not in line with international accessibility standards.

EU parliament leaders in disability pledge

European Parliament leaders have committed themselves to better upholding the rights of persons with disabilities, starting with making their political websites more universally accessible ahead of next year's EU elections.

News in Brief

  1. Macedonia sacks top prosecutor over wiretap scandal
  2. ECB concerned stronger euro could derail economic recovery
  3. Mixed Irish reactions to post-Brexit border proposal
  4. European Union returns to 2 percent growth
  5. Russian power most feared in Europe
  6. Ireland continues to refuse €13 billion in back taxes from Apple
  7. UK unemployment lowest since 1975
  8. Europe facing 'explosive cocktail' in its backyard, report warns

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceDoes Genetics Explain Why So Few of Us Have an Ideal Cardiovascular Health?
  2. EU2017EEFuture-Themed Digital Painting Competition Welcomes Artists - Deadline 31 Aug
  3. ACCABusinesses Must Grip Ethics and Trust in the Digital Age
  4. European Jewish CongressEJC Welcomes European Court of Justice's Decision to Keep Hamas on Terror List
  5. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersWe Need Democratic and Transparent Free Trade Agreements Says MEP Jordi Solé
  7. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  8. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  9. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  10. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  11. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  12. ECPAFood Waste in the Field Can Double Without Crop Protection. #WithOrWithout #Pesticides

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  2. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  3. Martens CentreWeeding Out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  4. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  5. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Ep. 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  6. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  7. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way
  8. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  9. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School
  10. EPSUEP Support for Corporate Tax Transparency Principle Unlikely to Pass Reality Check
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Improves the External Investment Plan but Significant Challenges Ahead
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCloser Energy Co-Operation Keeps Nordic Region on Top in Green Energy