Verona: the city of Romeo and Juliet, fascinating, rich in art, history and magic. How wonderful is walking around its streets, tasting its beauty, giving yourself a rest in a café or going shopping in its city centre… But is Verona accessible for who has mobility issues? Alessia Bottone and Valentina Bazzani tried to answer this question. They are, respectively, author/director and “sitting” main character of the short film “Vorrei ma non posso: quando le barriere architettoniche limitano i sogni” (“I’d like, but I can’t: when architectonical barriers limit dreams”), which describes a day in the life of Valentina, a disabled journalist, going around her city, Verona precisely, among architectonical (and cultural) barriers.
“Vorrei ma non posso” was presented in September and, since then, thousands of people have been watching it, including myself. Since I found it decisively interesting, I decided to get in touch with Alessia and Valentina to let them directly tell me how this interesting (and very useful!) project arose.
-How did the idea of “Vorrei ma non posso” arise?
ALESSIA – I’ve been dealing since a long time, also for my job, with human rights and the direct experience of my family has led me to be particularly sensitive to topics such as autonomy and accessibility referred to people with a disability. Two years ago, I presented a draft of the film at the Massimiliano Goattin award for Young Journalists, getting a financing that allowed me to take action. Meanwhile, I had gotten in touch, through Facebook, with Valentina, reading a post where she told about the umpteenth work discrimination she had been subjected to. From virtual, we passed to real life (we both live in Verona and this made things easier) and started to film the documentary, together with Elettra Bertucco, who took care of shots.
-Which was the biggest issue you had to face while filming “Vorrei ma non posso”?
VALENTINA – Lots of architectonical barriers: from steps, that, for people moving on a wheelchair and having a limited autonomy like me, represent an often impassable limit, to the lack of ramps on sidewalks or platforms (even removable) to access shops and public places. Not to mention the lack of dressing rooms equipped with sliding doors in clothing stores: it, de facto, forces who is on a wheelchair to try the clothes in front of the other clients, regardless of our privacy… But, above all, cultural barriers: stereotypes and clichés about disabled people are still too entrenched in our country. I dream an equal opportunity life, so everyone must be granted with the same rights and opportunities, so that everyone can demonstrate his own resources, peculiarities and potential. Unfortunately, now, it isn’t so.
-What was people reaction while you were filming “Vorrei ma non posso”?
A. – While filming, not to influence them, we didn’t refer to the documentary, talking with involved people. Of course, we covered their faces with pixels, to ensure their privacy. The way the documentary has been welcomed has, frankly, surprised me: usually, when you deal with such topics, unfortunately, you find just a few people willing to listen to you. On the contrary, both during its presentation and in these months, we noticed a big interest towards the topic we chose: is it a sign that something is moving towards the right direction?
-What is still missing to reach full accessibility, that is urban spaces designed to be suitable for the needs of all citizens (including those with a motoric – both on wheelchair and not- or sensory disability)?
V. – As of now, to get the full accessibility we lack, on one hand, wisdom even during the designing phase, the effort to think spaces also like disabled people would do, or, when possible, directly involve them. But, on the other hand, we also lack the will, from the institutions, to create truly accessible environments for all, at least in public spaces. A lot has been done, but there’s still a lot to do. We disabled people can keep on creating awareness and become “active protagonists”, showing that, thanks to our commitment and our resources, we can live a normal life. It isn’t easy, mostly when, due to your own condition, you depend on someone else’s help. But we must do it.
-What has changed, after the documentary came out, in Verona?
A. – Verona was among the first Italian cities to adopt the PEBA, the Plan to Remove Architectonical Barriers. Sure, passing from intent to practice is slower than we’d like to, and the law vagueness doesn’t help: for instance, the paradox that, to equip your business with a removable platform, you must pay a tax to occupy a public area is, at least, a nonsense, isn’t it?
-How much do issues linked to accessibility weigh on the full (both social and work) inclusion of disabled people?
V. – After the middle school, even though I was keener on scientific subjects, I chose a technical school because it was the only accessible one. Over the years, things have improved: our community is more inclusive and there’s an increasing attention to spaces, to ensure they are accessible and comfortable. The biggest issue is, still, mostly cultural: we cannot accept, in 2017, that a disabled individual, a professional with an impressive resume, has a large amount of job interviews and is rejected just due to his disability! I fought so many battles to live a normal life, studying, getting graduated with top marks, collect working experience (for free), and then I’m rejected? No, I disagree! But we need institutions, associations establish a network and boost awareness, to create a really inclusive community.
Thanks a lot to these two wonderful women for having spotlighted again on a topic where we don’t do enough to translate intent into practice. Let’s hope to see soon the sequel of “Vorrei ma non posso”. Maybe, this time, the title could be: “I’d like… and I can!”