More accessible railway stations: RFI’ commitment

Who daily lives with any disability and has- for business, study or leisure reasons- to take the train, knows how tricky this experience can be, even though the availability of assistance services is granted in the overwhelming majority of the Italian railway stations.

Stations - Milan Central

Milan Central Station

On the occasion of the XV National day for the architectonical barriers removal, on October 1st, RFI (Italian Railway Network),  companioning with FIABA, a non-profit association that has been fighting for years to remove architectonical barriers, officially announced its plan to improve its stations accessibility and usability for all the passengers.

Planned interventions include:

  • elevating sidewalks (55 cm from the platform plan) to make it easy hopping on and off the trains;
  • redeveloping passages and building new ramps to access the platforms;
  • activating elevators;
  • installing tactile paths and maps for visually impaired passengers;
  • building new platform roofs and redeveloping the existent ones.
Stations - Milan Central Station

Milan Central Station gallery

Furthermore, public information systems, both video and audio, will be improved, installing new monitors and sound diffusion systems and improving the station signage and lighting. The plan also includes interventions on the stations access areas, building parking lots, stalls for 2-wheels vehicles stop and appropriate systems facilitating the travellers hopping on and off, without bicycles on their shoulders. Digital technologies will also be more used, to improve the “user experience” for all the passengers, speeding up the access to platform and the electronic ticket validation and making it easier to find real time info about train circulation and more.

Renewal and removal of architectonical barriers interventions, in 2017, will involve 50 railway stations all over Italy and likewise in 2018. Is that going to be enough to, at last, ease train commuting for all the passengers? We do hope so!

What’s your experience travelling by train and in the stations? Let’s share it in the comments!

 

Barrier-free Apulia: one region, a lot of itineraries

Contrary to what we usually think, attention to everyone’s needs and, in particular, to accessible tourism is wide spreading in Italy too. We’ve already seen some examples, from North to South, including the islands. Today, our “virtual tour” stops in Apulia, “Italy’s heel”. A region rich in history, art, postcards landscapes, culture and – not a bad thing, indeed- culinary tradition. Hence, everything you could wish for your holiday!

Apulia - Lecce

Lecce

The official web portal or the Apulia Region tourism has a section fully reserved to accessible tourism, where you can find info about how to move, where to sleep, where to eat, events and monuments that are accessible to everyone (including our pets!). Furthermore, there are also some “for all” itineraries, to discover and enjoy the treasures of this region without worrying about accessibility.

Apulia - Torre dell'Orso

Torre dell’Orso

Bari, the Apulia county seat, has made accessible to people with motoric disabilities not just its airport and railway station, but also important monuments such as the St. Nicola’ Basilica, the St. Sabino’ Cathedral, the Swabian Castle and the Province Gallery. Also, the old town centre (“Bari vecchia”) presents a path that’s accessible to people with motoric disabilities. But they thought about visually impaired people needs too, with a “light path” enabling them to safely enjoy the city centre.

Apulia - Salento

Salento, the sea stacks

When you say “Apulia”, you immediately think about Baroque and, first of all, Lecce. This wonderful city is always more accessible as well, thanks to an itinerary including monuments with artistic value such as Porta Napoli, the Cathedral, the Carmine church, St. Oronzo’s square (which is only partially accessible), the Theatines’ monastery (accessible with assistance) and Carlo V Castle. Going outside the city, you can enjoy the beauty of the Rauccio’ park, the Cesine’ oasis and beaches equipped to guarantee accessibility to everyone. You can also find accessible itineraries for Otranto, Gallipoli, Ostuni and many more “pearls” of this magnificent region.

Apulia - Otranto

Otranto

Are you ready to leave, to visit it for the first time or to get back there? Share your experience here: it could be useful for other travellers!

 

 

Dublin: tips for an accessible journey

Ah, Ireland… Nature, history, music, pubs, beer: there are so many reasons to love this country and think about spending a holiday there. But, let’s be honest, at least until a few years ago, accessibility and attention towards disabled people’ needs weren’t exactly the first thing coming up to your mind, thinking about Dublin and its surroundings. Luckily, things are evolving and, also thanks to the commitment of many local associations and to the adoption of digital technologies, a deeper awareness about these topics is spreading. Then, why not thinking about Dublin for your next holiday? As always, it’s important to plan it well in advance and search for the appropriate info, to avoid unpleasant surprises once there.

Ireland - Dublin

Reaching Dublin from Italy is very easy and convenient: the city airport, according to the experts, is one of the most accessible in Europe. Once you get there, if you prefer renting a car, you’ll have the chance to choose one fitting with your specific needs. On the contrary, if you prefer public transports, you’ll be glad to know that, in Dublin, the most part of buses, trams and trains, and their stops, is accessible to travellers with motoric disability and work to adapt all of them is in progress. Do you prefer cabs? Many of them are accessible also to passengers using a wheelchair: you’ll identify them from the icon visible on the vehicle’s top.

Ireland - Dublin Christ Church Cathedral

Christ Church Cathedral

And what about the city monuments, museums, pubs, restaurants and shops? Finding the information about the accessibility of the attractions we’re more interested in is easy, thanks to a very well curated website, created by two Dubliner guys and award-winning for its commitment to accessibility: Mobility Mojo, sort of “accessibility Tripadvisor”, that, based on the info shared by website managers and users (and verified by the website managers), provides detailed info about the accessibility of touristic attractions, hotels, shops, public transports, not only in Dublin. To see them, you only have to sign up (for free) on the site. It isn’t addressed only to disabled people (for instance, the presence of elevators, the absence of stairs, and so on), but also to people with special needs (for instance, who travels with little children and needs to know if the place he wants to visit has bathrooms equipped with areas to change the diaper).

Ireland - Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle

Enjoy your holiday in Dublin!

Cabs for everyone in the UK by law

Are you considering visiting London, maybe for a short or long weekend, in these months? Important news is coming, about accessibility for all and, particularly, for those using a wheelchair: starting from April 6th 2017, a new law will enter into force. It was announced last month by the Transport Minister Andrew Jones and ensures free access to cabs for everyone, including people using a wheelchair, who, so far, have been forced to request specifically equipped cabs, with additional costs, apart from the standard route fare. Drivers who won’t comply with this law and refuse to accept travellers on wheelchair or apply an extra-fare or won’t provide the passengers with a proper assistance, will be subjected to very grave sanctions: fines ‘til 1,000 £ and the license suspension or, in extreme cases, its revocation.

London cabs

It’s not insignificant news, that will involve all the UK, where cabs aren’t only a real institution, but also convenient means of transport (mainly if we compare their fares to the Italian ones…), thanks to the competition among the companies delivering the service. But it’s another sign of attention to accessibility and equal opportunities, as regards the access to public transport, in a country which is very advanced already, in this field.

The deep meaning of this law clearly shines through what Minister Jones said, during its official announcement:

 “We want to create a country for all, including people with disability. We must ensure them the same access to services and the same opportunities as anyone else, also when it comes to traveling. Those who use wheelchairs very often use cabs and rental cars and this change to the law will result in a more fair and equal treatment for everyone”.

We hope it won’t remain an isolated case and other countries will follow the UK’s example!

 

St. Petersburg: towards accessibility

When we think about accessibility and inclusion of people with disability, Russia isn’t exactly the first country coming up to our mind. And that’s right, according to the data. Nevertheless, to tell the truth, we must admit that, mostly before the Sochi 2014’ Winter Olympic Games, Russia started a path precisely aiming to make the country more accessible and inclusive towards people with any disability or, however, with reduced mobility. Then, why don’t we take the chance to discover closely this big country, rich in history? Let’s start from one of the most fascinating cities in the world: St. Petersburg, the second city in the country, after Moscow, on the Neva’s bank.

St. Petersburg - The Winter Palace

The Winter Palace

Let’s say it right away: there are plenty of reasons to visit this city, but, currently, doing it isn’t that easy, for people dealing with a reduced mobility. However, with a little bit of patience and getting organized in advance, you can visit St. Petersburg without experiencing too many issues. Sure, based on your specific disability, you’d better avoid public transport, which is still far from full accessibility (even though something is improving, thanks to the “Sochi project”): there are still just a few subway stations accessible to people with motoric disabilities and surface transit with lowered platform are very rare, not to mention signage for blind people, pretty much lacking. However, there are some tour operators (for instance, this one and this other one) offering touristic itineraries fitting with the disabled travellers’ needs.

St. Petersburg - Hermitage

Hermitage

Accessibility is better if we look at the main touristic attractions in St. Petersburg, starting from the suggestive Hermitage museum, one of the biggest and most famous in the world, that’s been made accessible to visitors with motoric disability installing a service elevator. The same is valid for the majestic Winter Palace, the former imperial residence, which now is part of the Hermitage main complex, and for the Mariinsky theatre. Not forgetting St. Isaac’s Cathedral, the biggest orthodox basilica in the world, and the Nevsky Boulevard, which represents the (touristic, artistic and historic) heart of the city, where overlook many monuments, malls, museums and artistic attractions. There are also restaurants and hotels accessible to people with disability: you can find some examples here.

St. Petersburg - Nevsky Boulevard

Nevsky Boulevard

Then, when are we leaving?

Is Venice accessible? Yes, more and more!

We’re approaching the Carnival climax and, in Italy, “Carnival” means, first, Venice, with its masks wearing very elegant and refined costumes. Who wouldn’t like enjoying that show live, at least for once in his life? Not to mention the other thousands of reasons to visit one of the most fascinating cities in Italy and in the whole world, that yearly attracts tourists from all the continents.

Venice - Carnival

Yes, indeed: but Venice, with its streets, bridges, all that water, doesn’t exactly seem to be a synonym of accessibility, for people living with motoric or visual disabilities. This, at least, apparently. Actually, doing some search, I discovered that, in the last years, even the city immersed into the water is very committed to accessibility. Sure, we’re  still talking about a city with an ancient structure and, by its nature, fragile, so it’s impossible to make too drastic interventions to reduce architectonical barriers. But it doesn’t mean that no intervention is possible, as the city administration’ work shows.

Venice - gondalas on the sea

Today, thanks to the commitment towards public transport and minimization of the architectonical barriers that, until a few years ago, made it actually “off limits” for disabled people, about 70% of the old town centre of Venice is accessible to who has a motoric disability. The Città per Tutti Service and the EBA (Architectonical Barriers Removal) Office of the city have designed a map of accessible Venice, downloadable for free in PDF format from the Municipality website. This document summarizes useful info and practical tips enabling people with motoric disabilities to visit the city.

Venice - Rialto Bridge

The map highlights the accessibility of the isles which make up the city, based on the availability (or lack) of public transport lines, using different colours to mark the areas which are accessible by steamboat (in green), those accessible by motorboat or having an “assisted” bridge (in light green) and those that aren’t accessible by public transport vehicles (in white). But it isn’t all! On the map, you can also find info about:

Furthermore, on the Municipality website, you can also find accessible itineraries, with details about the accessibility of monuments, buildings and attractions, so that you can avoid unpleasant surprises once you’re there. Any doubt or question? You can send an e-mail to cittapertutti@comune.venezia.it or submit your request filling the online form.

Venice - gondolas

And there’s even more! If you don’t want to miss the chance to enjoy a romantic tour by gondola, you can benefit from the “Gondolas4All” service, a simple and, at the same time, smart way to remove an architectonical (and not just it) barrier between the disabled tourists and the chance to enjoy the beauty of Venice also from the sea.

 

Norway: nature, history and accessibility

When we talk about accessibility, Northern Europe has nothing to learn. And Norway doesn’t except, luckily! Indeed, this fascinating country, rich in natural beauty and history, has always cared a lot about disabled people needs. Then, if you’re thinking about visiting it, please note that, apart from a little bit of caution linked to the climate (during winter, snow and ice are the standard and temperatures aren’t exactly mild), you can focus on holiday and leave worries at home! But let’s immediately start our “virtual tour”.

As always, my first advice, if you want to spend a holiday in Norway, is to plan it well in advance. The best time to fully enjoy the beauty of Norway goes from late spring to summer, when temperature is mild and, then, going about is more pleasant. Because there’s plenty of things to see in Norway!

Norway - The northern lights seen from the Lofoten islands

The northern lights seen from the Lofoten islands

The most comfortable and fast way to reach Norway from Italy, of course, is airplane: contact well in advance the airline you’ll choose to request the assistance you need and avoid unpleasant glitches during the flight. Once you’ve reached your destination, you’ll realize that, as in all the Northern Europe countries, also in Norway accessibility is very important, not only in Oslo and in the other main cities, but also in national parks and in the fjords region. Public transport and stops are, for the overwhelming majority, fully accessible to people with disability, not just with a motoric one.

Norway - The Royal Palace in Oslo

Oslo, the Royal Palace

Norway - Oslo, Vigeland Park

Oslo, Vigeland Park

And what about museums, monuments and public places? Norway has been very committed, throughout the years, to make its most important monuments and museums as accessible as possible, since they attract tourists from all around the world. In Oslo, for instance, the Royal Palace, built in the first half of the nineteenth century, today is one of the most accessible in the world. The same is valid for the most well-known museums in the city, from the Viking one to that devoted to the Peace Nobel Prize history, plus the magnificent Opera House and the National Theatre or the suggestive Vigeland Park (also known as “sculptures’ park”), devoted the works of the artist Gustav Vigeland. Shops and public places are, generally, accessible also to who uses a wheelchair: there are still some issues left for the oldest ones, that sometimes have stairs or narrow spaces in their interior parts.

Do you prefer the beauty of nature? Take the chance to do a cruise in the fjords region, in the South of Norway, or to enjoy the breath-taking landscapes of the Lofoten islands, very close to the Polar Arctic Circle. Everything will be fully accessible and safe, as you can see in this video about the fjords in the Rogaland area.

Amsterdam: eco-friendly, transgressive…and accessible!

Let’s continue our imaginary tour of accessible Europe stopping at Amsterdam, the Netherlands’ capital city. Culturally lively, eco-friendly (just think about the huge number of bicycles you can see on the streets) and transgressive (try asking your friends the first things they link to the city… apart from tulips and Dutch clogs!), as many Northern Europe capitals, Amsterdam is certainly cutting-edge about accessibility, for people with movement issues or “special” needs (don’t be naughty, please!).

Dutch clogs - Amsterdam

Reaching Amsterdam from Italy is easy: by airplane, in a few hours, you can get to Schipol airport, enormous but absolutely suitable for all passengers, for its accessibility. To reach the city, you can use the intercity train connecting the airport to the center of Amsterdam, better booking in advance the assistance you need, since, to get on board, you must overtake three steps: you’d have the chance to request it also directly there, but be prepared to wait… for hours! Instead, if you choose a slower train, Sprinter, you can do without assistance, since the entrance is at the platform level.

Amsterdam

Once you arrive in Amsterdam, you can breathe a sigh of relief: even though the streets are paved with small bricks, the city is suitable for people with reduced mobility, thanks to ramps facilitating going up and down the sidewalks and not so many circulating cars (in compensation, as I said earlier, there’s a lot of bicycles, but also cycle paths). Public transport is generally accessible as well: the subway network has elevators and trains at the same level as the platforms; the new trams have accessible entrances and, for any event, platforms can be pulled out by the drivers. Instead, not all the buses, so far, are accessible, but many of them have platforms that can be pulled out to allow access also to travellers on wheelchairs. But Amsterdam is a “water city”, so it would be a pity not to take a tour on one of its boats, all fully accessible. And there’s even more: if you want to take a bicycle tour, you can do it even if you use a wheelchair, renting one of the special bicycles. To plan your city tour as better as you can, you can check the local city transport company website (it’s available also in English).

Amsterdam

The most comfortable (and convenient) way to visit Amsterdam as a tourist is the Amsterdam Card, that you can request also online and allows you to freely take public transport, but also access the most important attractions and museums in the city (in many cases, tourists with disability and their companions, but also children, can benefit from discounts). Most of the museums and of the most craved touristic destinations are accessible: from the Van Gogh Museum to Anna Frank’s home (at least in the renovated part) to the Heineken Experience, you’ll have the chance to access everywhere without too many issues. And the same is valid for most of the city restaurants and public places (here you can find detailed info about the accessibility of museums, transport and public places of the most important Dutch cities).

You just have to leave: enjoy your holiday!

PS. Have you been there and would like to share info with the other Move@bility users? You’re welcome!

“Pompei per tutti”: the digs are (at last) accessible

2016 ends with good news: starting from December 2nd (in time for the World Disability Day, not just an accidental coincidence, and, for sure, a meaningful one), will finally start “Pompei per tutti” (“Pompeii for all”), a 3 km itinerary that will enable people with motoric disabilities, little children and elderly people, but also blind and partially-sighted ones, to enjoy one of the most famous and visited archaeological sites in the world.

"Pompei per tutti"

Thanks to the new clay floor on sidewalks and uncovered areas, plus some steel ramps, removable and respectful towards the site’ structure and historic value, everyone can now visit Pompeii with no risks. The “Pompei per tutti” itinerary twists and turns from the Porta Marina entrance to the Amphitheatre, alongside Abbondanza road, with the chance to access the most interesting domus and the most meaningful buildings in the site, for a total of 20 monuments. It will be possible to visit the Giulia Felice’s complex, the Venus in the Shell’s house and the Octavius Quartio house, both opened again in March, or the Ephebe’s house, the Cryptportico’ and the Sacerdos Amandus’ ones, that can be visited since December 2015. It will also include the Fugitives’ garden, the Faun house and the Dioscuri’s house, to reach the tower closing Mercury road. The itinerary also leads to the Court, with the chance to walk the most part of the portico, from the Basilica to the Venus Temple.

Pompei per tutti

Picture ©Repubblica.it

“Pompei per tutti” will be the most extended assisted itinerary to visit an archaeological site, in Italy. We hope it won’t remain a unique case, but only the first of a long list, since Italy is, as a matter of fact, an “open air museum” that everyone, including people with disabilities or reduced mobility, has the right to enjoy and admire.

Pompei per tutti

Picture ©Repubblica.it

For more information and to best organize your visit to the Pompeii archaeological site, please refer to its official website.

Enjoy!

Paris and accessibility: a possible pair

Paris attracts millions of tourists from all over the world: after all, it offers so many attractions that it couldn’t be otherwise! Nevertheless, when I visited it, a few years ago, I must confess I wasn’t positively impressed by the city, most of all as regards the accessibility of transports (particularly, the subway stations) and public places in general: even though I don’t need to use a wheelchair, I experienced some issues visiting the city, which contributed to dampen my enthusiasm towards the very well-known “Ville Lumière”.

Paris - The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower

Nevertheless, since I always try to give a second chance, after having watched once again one of my favourite movies, Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain, I searched again and, very surprisingly, I discovered that, under many points of view, in these years, Paris accessibility has improved a lot.

Paris - The Moulin Rouge

The Moulin Rouge

TRAnSPORTs: ARRIVing and moving in paris

If you want to go to Paris from North-Western Italy, it can be extremely comfortable using the famous TGV to reach the French capital city. Of course, this train provides disabled passengers with dedicated assistance services, that can be requested directly from the French website. Should you have special needs, you can also send an e-mail (in French or English) to accessplus@sncf.fr. Moreover, on TGVs, disabled people can travel first class buying a second-class ticket, while their companion (if any) travels for free. Instead, if you prefer the airplane, both the city airports (Charles De Gaulle and Orly) offer both the standard assistance services and various accessible solutions, to meet everyone’s need. And, once in the city, how are things going?

Paris - Notre Dame

Notre Dame Cathedral

The very extensive Paris subway network, unfortunately, is still mainly inaccessible to people with movement issues, since elevators and escalators are available only in a few stations (and often not working…), there are gaps among platforms and trains, etc. Today, only the 14 “Météor” Line (Gare Saint-Lazare-Olympiades), which is the newest one, is totally accessible (since it has been designed without architectonical barriers). So, if you have particular movement issues (or large and heavy luggage), my advice is to choose surface transit: buses and trams are, mostly, accessible both to people with motoric and sensory disabilities. To make sure avoiding unpleasant surprises, you’d better plan your transfers all over the city visiting the website of the company managing the public transport in Paris. An unmissable experience (and suitable for all) is the touristic tour on the famous Bateau-Mouche, the boat that allows seeing the most important attractions of the city, while doing a suggestive tour on the Seine.

Paris - The Bateau Mouche

The Bateau-Mouche

“must see” in paris

I’m not going to make a list of the movements and attractions of the French capital city, since everybody knows them. I’ll only tell you that, luckily, the growing awareness towards accessibility doesn’t reflect only on transports and on the appearance of most part of the city streets, now equipped with joints among sidewalks and street levels near crossroads and crosswalks. As it still happens too often here in Italy, even in Paris coffees and restaurants are well far from being totally accessible, but things are improving also under this perspective. Monuments and museums are increasingly accessible to people with motoric disabilities, thanks to the installation elevators and ramps. In many cases, disabled visitors and their companions can benefit from free access or, as it happens for the Eiffel tower or in Disneyland Paris, from a discount and reserved entrances. Do you want to make sure that the museum or the attraction you’re going to visit satisfies your mobility needs? Check it on Jaccede.com, a website that’s also available as an app for smartphones. And what about hotels? The accessible ones are identified by the logo of Tourisme & Handicaps, an association whose website offers a very useful search engine of accommodation facilities, restaurants and public places that are accessible to everyone.

Paris - Louvre

The Louvre Museum

Maybe I’d better get back visiting Paris: hopefully, this time I’ll have a better experience! Would you like joining me?