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Accessibility around the World!

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Friday May 30 2014 11:00 AM

Does accessibility mean the same thing to you as it does to me?

Accessibility, or lack thereof, is really a hobby horse of mine and it really gets my juices flowing, makes my blood boil! Accessibility is not just about ‘getting there’. It should be about what you can do when you get there. It is about what facilities are useable when you get there. There is so much more to accessibility than just getting there. To make a valid claim that a venue is accessible requires thought and planning and not just paying ‘lip service’ to the legal requirements. This is one area where the old adage “It’s the thought that counts” is absolutely meaningless. I know that there are other aspects to accessibility but that is a topic for another day.

I recently travelled from Cork to Dublin on the train and was very pleased with the overall experience. I was met at the stations, Cork and Dublin, and assisted onto the train and the toilets were wheelchair accessible. The Luas was also accessible but crowded and I was glad that my wife Jean was with me on that occasion. I really can’t comment on Bus Eireann as it is a long time since I was on a bus!

For those of you who don’t read my blog; I stayed in Jury’s Inn, Croydon, London in March and the hotel was accessible and advertised wheelchair accessible rooms. The rooms were accessible but the shower was in the bath making it extremely difficult to have a wash. I have visited numerous restaurants with wheelchair accessible toilets only to find that once the chair was inside the toilet it was impossible to close the door and as we all know privacy is important. Paying lip service is not good enough

But it is not all about restaurants and toilets. It is much more. There are National Monuments that are inaccessible to disabled people -The Garden Of Remembrance is one such monument and there is no good reason for that inaccessibility. A cheap and fast method was suggested to the Office of Public Work (OPW) more than two years ago and they have refused to consider it. The issue has been raised in Dail Eireann and the OPW still haven’t made the Gardens accessible. Not all National Monuments are inaccessible; Charles Fort near Kinsale is fairly accessible but I think a large chunk of the credit has to go to the original design team in the 17th century. Ramps were not installed for wheelchair users but for movement of guns and ammunition!

Having noted the inaccessibility of some places of national interest there are places that I would have expected to be difficult to access and I found the opposite. The Cliffs of Moher are very accessible with a great interpretative centre and ‘doable’ paths close to the cliff edge. The Etihad Sky walk on the roof of Croke Park is accessible. Thomond Park is accessible, although I have yet to visit it my daughter Elaine has confirmed its accessibility. 

There will always be places that will not be accessible to people with disabilities. Kissing the Blarney Stone is a no-no, climbing to the Shandon Belles is a no-no!! Small old villages and towns are very restricted because they were designed and developed long before disabled access was considered important. These difficult to access places are not just restricted to Ireland. The cobble stones in the Vatican make life difficult for wheelchair users. Redzuan gave Milan a score of 2 in his recent travels to Milan. Read why schwingeninswitzerland was unimpressed with Paris. Cory Lee was not impressed with the metro stations in Paris but was very happy with Niagara Falls!

Let me know what accessibility means to you!

Declan

Don't forget to visit able2access.wordpress.com a blog about accessibility for the mobility impaired 

Author: Declan Groeger

Tags: access, accessibility, worldmsday, disability, transport, travel

Comments

Willeke

Friday May 30 2014 14:16

Very well-written Declan, and such an important topic also. Usually people don't think about places being inaccessible until they're standing in front of them on crutches or in a wheelchair, realising that they didn't expect any issues beforehand. Ireland has a long way to go with making things accessible for all, but in the meantime, I'll keep reading your blog to find out what and where people can access easily! Well done!

Anne Dunne

Friday May 30 2014 16:27

Yes. My daughter went to DCU cause Trinity is inaccessible and changed her bank for the same reason. Those making decisions on planning should try getting around in a wheelchair before calling somewhere 'accessible'

Declan

Friday May 30 2014 17:15

Thanks Willeke

Joan Jordan

Saturday May 31 2014 19:00

Well put Declan! This issue needs to be raised at a national level. Maybe, in the meantime- we could work on a list of accessible spots to visit in Ireland? What do you think? Joan

Lucina Russell

Wednesday June 04 2014 20:19

Well said Declan. Thankfully my own experience relates to a double buggy, rather than a wheelchair. I found Ireland much more accessible than Italy - where children are 'welcome', but footpaths were dangerous, toilets too small to swing a cat. Is it worth lobbying OPW around national standards across facilities ?

Declan

Thursday June 05 2014 08:51

Thanks for the comments guys. I tried to get a website 'able2accessireland' going but haven't been successful thus far. In my opinion the OPW are not really interested in the 15% to 20% of the population that have some disability.

Willeke

Thursday June 05 2014 13:01

Declan, I know it's not yet that visible yet, but accessibility is being looked into by government parties. I was part of a Labour Disability group who looked into accessibility big time. If I'm correct, Kathleen Lynch was involved also.
If you feel like it, I'd email the coalition telling your story. They want to hear the personal side of such issues...

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