We’ve already underlined many time, talking about accessible tourism for people with motoric or sensory disabilities, ,that Northern Europe represents sort of “safe haven”, thanks to a consolidated awareness towards these topics which, over the years, has resulted in measures aiming to promote accessibility and social inclusion of people with a disability. No exception for Sweden, where our accessible travel takes us today.
Aurora borealis in Sweden
Let’s start our journey from the capital city, Stockholm, the “Northern Venice”, built on 14 islands, which combines innovation and classical architecture, being able to satisfy all tastes. Getting around the city with public transport is easy also for those having a disability, thanks to a fully accessible underground network, urban buses equipped with lowered platforms and ramps that allow to safely drop on and off in every situation, plus acoustic and light signals for those having sensory disabilities (for further information, please refer to the Stockholm public transport service website, where you’ll also find the contact details to ask for more specific info or services). What to see in the capital city of Sweden? Well, first of all, the magnificent royal palace in Gamla Stan, the ancient city, that’s been equipped with services (a lift to access the upper stairs, ad hoc paths for visitors with a disability, and so on). But also museums for all tastes, theatres and the rest. And what about accessibility? As regards museums, you can check whether the one you’re interested in is accessible to your specific disability on stockholmmuseums.se, also available in English, where you can find detailed info about accessibility. You can also enjoy winter sports, requesting the dedicated services, or a tour of the island of the Stockholm archipelago, contacting the companies offering this service to agree upon the needed assistance.
Talking about Sweden and accessibility, we cannot forget to mention Göteborg, the European most accessible city in 2013, thanks not only to its tourism services, but, most of all, to its policty of real inclusion of people with a disability, through measures (about work, housing, removal of architectonical barriers) promoting their independence and autonomy.
So, why visiting Sweden? Well, the list of reason could be virtually unlimited, as you’ve read above: from breath-taking landscapes to architectonical beauty of its cities, you’ll be spoiled for choice! Furthermore, if you can do it without excessively worrying about accessibility, it’s even better, isn’t it?
One of the main reasons why I created Move@bility is to raise awareness towards existing and effective examples of accessibility and inclusion. This is exactly the case of the V.I.S.O. project (its acronym stands for Viaggiamo Insieme Superiamo Ostacoli, i.e. “Travel Together Overtaking Obstacles”), created in Padua in 2018 by the Centro Studi l’Uomo e l’Ambiente and funded by Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Padova e Rovigo. The main objective of the project is to promote the social inclusion of people with physical or cognitive disabilities, through travels and sharing cultural and leisure experiences, at the moment in Padua area, but with the ambition to gradually expand all over Italy.
A group photo during a tour
what does v.i.s.o. do in practice?
The project leaders of V.I.S.O. organize and propose guided tours, day trips and experiences to know new places and meet new people, do sport and have fun together in an accessible way for everyone. They prepare practical guides and design customized paths, based on the participants’ specific needs, to visit museums, monuments, buildings, churches, parks, squares and know arts, history, social events, customs and traditions. Both guides and paths report architectonical barriers(for instance, the presence and height of stairs, to facilitate who moves using wheelchairs or other aids) and other peculiarities, such as intense noise or potentially crowded locations, so that people who are particularly sensitive to these cases (for instance, who has a sensory disability or suffers from a autism spectrum disorder) to avoid unpleasant surprises once on site or, if possible, to choose an alternative path.
All the available guided tours are announced well in advance both on the V.I.S.O. project’s website and on its social profiles. The offered activities also include the opportunity to spend time in sports and leisure activities, but, first of all, to socialize. This is a particularly important trait for those who, due to their own condition or the situation they live in, risk to get isolated.
A moment of sharing focused on sport
Do you like the V.I.S.O. project? You can even financially support it, donating on Rete Del Dono. Would you like to get more info about the project or about how to participate in the next guided tours? You can get in touch with its leaders through the contact details specified on its website. Is there anything similar in your city? If so, please inform me through a mail and I’ll be happy to share and raise awareness towards them on Move@bility: after all, that’s exactly how I got to know the V.I.S.O. project! 🙂
Have you ever thought that, for who lives with a given disability, even his own home can turn into a hostile place, full of hidden dangers? Sometimes, little tricks could be enough to make furniture or rooms fully usable also by those who have physical limitations. This is the starting point of ThisAbles, the project developed by Ikea Israel and by the non-profit organization Milbat that enables who has a disability to pick, through the website dedicated to the initiative, adjustmensts for commonly used furniture (obviously, made by Ikea) such as chairs, beds, couches that make it easier to use them also for those who have special needs.
Some products can also be printed in 3D directly from the website users, simply downloading the appropriate file from the website. ThisAbles currently includes 13 hacks for various home rooms: the living room, the study, the bedroom and the bathroom. Special handles that help opening and closing the closets, switches that are easier to reach, supports for canes and extensions for the couches legs, for instance.
Cane by me, a bed support for cane
But there’s much more that can be done! In fact, the website invites its users to collaborate to expand the upgrades catalogue, sending ideas and proposals adapted to single needs, in addition to signal what objects, among those already included in the catalogue, are more suitable for helping people with disabilities in their everyday activities.
The ThisAbles project is perfectly aligned with the Swedish company’s vision: “create a better everyday life for as many people as possible”. We hope it can be soon extended to the other countries Ikea operates in and, hopefully, other brands follow its example. Since, as we always say, a more accessible world is an advantage for everyone, not only for those with “special needs”.
Since one of the reasons why I decided to create Move@bility is to raise awareness towards the need to remove architectonical barriers, not only to the advantage of people with any disability, but of the community as a whole, I’m very happy to have the chance to share with you initiatives with this goal. I’m even happier in this case, because I have the chance to chat with a woman who’s a friend of mine in the real life as well: Francesca Moscardo, who I meet today as a representative of the team that created Goover, a new app created to signal architectonical barriers and accessible places, to make it easier for everyone to move around our cities.
– Hi Francesca, would you like to introduce yourself to Move@bility readers?
Yes, indeed! I’m 31 and live in Verona, a city that I love. I was born with diastrophic dysplasia, a type of dwarfism that, in addition to several bone malformations, donated to me a very short height: indeed, I use to say that I’m pocket-sized! In daily life, my disability is very particular, since I suffer both the inconvenience of who moves using a wheelchair (I can walk, but on long distances I use it) and those of very very short people, as children who are unable to reach the wc, the sink, the lift buttons or to open a door… I graduated in Art, but life led me to begin writing and I currently cooperate with a communications agency as a copywriter. Summing up my passion for storytelling – with a very ironic style, people say- and my a little bit borderline disability, in 2017 I created “Nanabianca Blog. Il mondo a un metro d’altezza” (“Whitedwarf Blog. The world from 1 meter height“): a blog where I talk about Verona and my journeys, always with a particular focus on accessibility information, but I also share the solutions I’ve found in my daily life that could be useful to someone else facing similar problems (about clothes, personal care, cooking, planning a trip, etc.). I try to share ideas, sparks that other people can adapt to their own lives. This year, my blog gave me the chance to meet the Goover team: they asked me to become an effective member of this project, taking the responsibility of its blog (that’s starting in these days). To me, mobility is a fundamental part of a disabled person’s life: getting a driver licence in 2015 and being able to move freely on my adapted car, donated me a bunch of opportunities and experiences that I couldn’t have imagined before. The Goover app, under a different perspective, aims to give freedom of movement to people with motoric issues, pointing out and avoiding architectonical barriers in a given path: this goal is totally aligned with my vision, then I couldn’t help to accept their offer!
The Goover team
–How did the idea of Goover arise?
The idea arose during an hackathon the team – that would have created Goover – participated in October 2017 in Turin, about mobility in the city. Paolo Bottiglieri, the CEO, had a professional background in disability and, together with Marco Coluccio and MatteoSipione, was willing to find a way to improve urban movements. Quite by chance, they saw a guy on a wheelchair who had to change his route due to a step: that was the starting point.
– What’s this app distinctive point, compared with the others?
Before starting with its development, the team conducted a competitive study to understand what the market already offered, what competitors were doing and how. Then, they found that all the others offer just a few features and, sometimes, the apps haven’t been updated for 6 or 7 years. Goover aims to be an app that sums all the features on a single platform (avoiding the kangaroo-effect from an app to another) and guides the user on barrier-free itineraries.
– The apps aiming to point out architectonical barriers usually only take into account just one kind of disability: the motoric one and, specifically, the disabilities implying the usage of a wheelchair to move. But, as we well know, there are many disabilities, even when we only look at motoric limitations. Just to give an example, who walks using crutches has different needs from who uses a wheelchair and, then, also architectonical barriers ar seen in a different way. Will Goover help who has different needs too?
The goal is being able to diffentiate itineraries based on the specific disability or experience of the user on a wheelchair. Thanks to our first mapping, we noticed that there are obstacles that, for some people, aren’t so and that’s why we’ll add also the difficulty level on itineraries.
– Great! Based on your personale experience, what is still lacking to be really able to “think accessible”, when designing urban spaces, public buildings, etc.?
First of all, I think that there’s a lack of capability to step in the shoes of people whose needs are different from ours, whoever they are; second, there’s a lack of open-mindedness and will to go beyond norms as regards design, to create an environment that is really suitable for as many people as possible (not only those on a wheelchair, who, in the collective imagination, represent the standard disability) and doesn’t just comply with laws, even when they are outdated. Finally, there’s no awareness towards the fact that, if a place is accessible to someone with a disability, it will be suitable for everyone too. Maybe this is the most common concept, but also the hardest for designers to internalize.
– I couldn’t agree more! Can you share some heads up about the future of Goover with us? What do we have to expect for 2019?
We can say that, nowe, we’re working hard to start having stable versions of the app both on Android and iOS: the app is currently in the beta testing phase. In 2019, we’ll focus on strengthening the link among accessible venues, most of all cafés and restaurants. In the future, we’d like to give the chance to book hotels and rooms certified as accessible directly from the Goover website, minimizing the risk of nasty surprises, as it often happens nowadays. The case that got stuck in my mind is that of Giulia, who booked a room from a well-known platform and, once she got there, even though the venue was certified as fully accessible, discovered that there were three steps in front of the lift that was supposed to allow her to reach her room. The Goover site aims to eliminate situations like this one.
Thanks, Francesca, and good luck to you and the whole Goover team! 🙂
How many times did yo go out with your friends or your partner, thinking to enjoy a night in a trendy public place and, once you got there, you realized that your night wasn’t going to be that happy-go-lucky, due to one too many architectonical barrier? Wouldn’t it be great to have the chance to choose a public place being aware in advance of its accessibility? It’s possible, thanks to Google Maps. Joining the Local Guides program, each Maps user will have the chance to point out, in a few clicks on his smartphone or desktop, the accessibility of the local places in his city. Isn’t it wonderful?
Go to Google Maps (from your browser or, if you use the smartphone, from the app)
After having logged into your Google account (if you haven’t done it already), choose from the drop-down menu “Your contributions“
Then, you’ll be invited to join Local Guides: click on “Start” to accept and specify the city you live in
In order to share your reviews about the accessibility of public places, you’ll have to activate the Location history, clicking on the appropriate link on your device
Now, you’ll be invited to share a review about the places you visited and, if you want, to answer a few questions about their accessibility. For instance, if that place is accessible to people using a wheelchair, or other (you can find some examples here).
For each review you’ll share, you’ll earn some points and, bit by bit, you’ll reach a higher level. The points you’ll earn will enable you to access advantages such as the chance to have new features in advance. But, most importantly, you’ll have the satisfaction of doing something good for other people, with a little effort. Since a more accessible world isn’t good just for who has any disability, but for the whole community!
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.
Alessia and Valentina at “Vorrei ma non posso” launch event
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!”
During All Saint’s Day long weekend, I had the chance to make a short trip by train. Of course, to make sure avoiding issues hopping on and off the train (waiting for when Italy will reach the full autonomous accessibility, for passengers with motoric disabilities too, as it happens already since a long time in other countries… but let’s keep hoping!), a few days before the departure, I requested the assistance I need, through the standard Trenitalia procedure. Everything went smoothly, both during the leaving and the return, also thanks to the assistance of very kind and friendly operators. I didn’t know that Trenitalia has just launched a brand new platform (actually, a little bit hidden inside the website) to request more quickly the assistance service that fits best with each passenger’ specific needs: SalaBlu online.
To access SalaBlu online, you must sign up on the platform (any existing access data used on Trenitalia website isn’t worth), filling the form with the requested info: personal data, e-mail, phone, preferred assistance service (you can pick up to 3 different ones, according to your specific disability) and authorization to data usage for delivering the service (the second authorization, referred to the service quality, is optional). Once you’ve completed the sign-up procedure clicking on “Conferma”, you’ll get an e-mail message with a link to confirm your registration and setting up a password to access the service.
how to request assistance through SALABLU ONLINE?
Once you’ve logged in, clicking on “Proposte di viaggio”, you’ll see a screenshot where you can select the data about the trip you’re interested in, using, where available, the drop-down menus: departure date, departure time slot, departure and arrival stations. Thereafter, you’ll reach a screen summarizing the trip solutions fitting with the criteria you’ve specified earlier: just choose your preferred one clicking on the two arrows to reach the screenshot reserved to the details about the assistance service you have requested. For instance, in case of assistance for motoric disability, you’ll have to specify if you need help to hop on and off the train, if you need the lift truck and the meeting points, plus your trip companion’s data (if any). Once you have filled this screen as well, your assistance request is registered on the system and processed by the involved blue rooms: you can check the status of your request through “Proposte di viaggio”, whenever you want.
In conclusion, essentially, now, thanks to SalaBlu online, you can do more quickly and in total autonomy what you previously used to do through e-mail or phone, with a longer procedure (and, sometimes, risking to buy a trip solution not fitting with the assistance service you need). Plus, should you have doubts, the “Guide” is just one click away!
Have you tested this service already? What do you think about it?
We’ve often talked about the importance of sports to include people with disability. In the last years, there’s a growing number of initiatives whose main goal is, precisely, overtaking architectonical and cultural barriers through sports. For instance, “Pagaiando abilmente” (“Ably paddling”), the project by “Teocle” yacht club in Giardini Naxos (ME), that, throughout its 60 years of story, has contributed to make many young and very young people interested in rowing. Its commitment has been rewarded also with the “Bronze Cross for sport merits”.
“Pagaiando abilmente” rises from the idea to attract all the young people to this sport, without any difference, to give them all the opportunity to fully experience the relationship with the sea, through sport practice, with countless benefits in terms of psychophysical development and, therefore, to effectively contributing to the growth of the community they live in. This will be done not just through classes with instructors specifically trained to interact with kids with various disabilities, who will use kayaks and aids complying with their specific needs, but also through a process of refurbishment of the club location, on the sea of Giardini Naxos, to remove architectonical barriers and make it fully accessible.
But this has considerable costs. That’s why the “Pagaiando abilmente” project is among those that crowdfunded on the OSO – Ogni Sport Oltre platform, promoted by Vodafone Foundation precisely to let projects aiming to widespread the sport culture and the social value of it be known and supported. You can contribute to fund the project donating at least 5 € through the page dedicated to “Pagaiando abilmente” on the OSO website. We still have a few weeks to help the project reach its goal to collect 6,000 €needed to adjust the ramp to access the beach, build a mechanical lifting system, delimit a pool in blue water and buy kayaks adapted to the disabled people needs. Let’s try it, ok?
We often talk about accessible tourisms, a trend which is (luckily) increasingly establishing, witnessing a higher awareness towards everyone’s licit need and will to travel, discovering new countries and different cultures. By the way, several initiatives (even in Italy) demonstrate that paying attention to the tourists with “special needs” isn’t just a generous act, but also a forward-looking and profitable strategy: as a matter of fact, taking into account that, limiting our talk to people with any disability, we’re talking about a quarter of the world population, not thinking about ways to adequately welcome them too means renouncing to a not exactly unimportant market share.
But, there’s often an issue on the table: transmitting correctly the message about the importance of accessible tourisms and help all the existing services, structures and initiatives be known through mass media. From this need arises an initiative promoted by the non-profit organization Diritti Diretti: the Premio Turismi Accessibili (Accessible Tourisms Prize), precisely aiming to award journalists, advertisers and communications specialists who succeed in “overtaking the barriers”, describing though radio-TV services, advertising campaigns, videos or communications campaigns entities which succeeded producing social and economic development, combining attractiveness, innovation, appearance and/or sustainability and accessibility culture.
The Accessible Tourisms Prize, which has reached its third edition, is addressed to the existing accessibility, in the various categories of tourism: culture, food & wine, sports, conventions, sea, mountains, thermal baths, education, religion. The goal is to demonstrate, through concrete examples, to entrepreneurs and institutions that serious investments in accessibility can improve a territory and its touristic and cultural offer, resulting in an advantage both for tourists and residents and- what’s not a secondary issue- with important economic effects for the enterprises operating to this end.
how to participate in the accessible tourisms prize?
To participate, you must register, filling, by May 5th 2018, the form that’s available on the Accessible Tourisms Prize website. Among all the participants, two winners will be selected: the project which will receive more votes by the users will gain 1000 €, while the project selected by the experts’ panel will receive a plaque. For more details about the contest, please check its announcement.
Presented a few days ago, Milanopertutti is live starting from today. This new web portal is part of a project promoted by Milan Municipality, companioning with various Lombard associations promoting the disabled people needs, with the goal to provide tourists with a disability or specific needs with useful info to enjoy their stay in the city.
The site is very easy to navigate, since it’s been designed complying with all the accessibility standards. There you can find info about accessibility of museums, monuments and churches having an historic and artistic value, in addition to data and links about the accessibility of the urban public transport, the most important railway stations and airports of the city, as well as tips about accessible itineraries and events, to satisfy every kind of tourist’ needs.
The portal pays a lot of attention to the deaf people needs: they can benefit from a video in LIS presenting the project and a dedicated section, with useful contacts and apps to enjoy the city without too many worries.
Milanopertutti represents another step forward in the commitment of the city to actually became “for all”, that led the city to receive the “City Access Award 2016”, appointed by the European Union to the city that stand out for their commitment to improve their accessibility.
So, is everything fine? Not exactly. There’s still a lot of road to walk, so that the city effectively becomes “for all”, both for tourists and people who live here or come daily for business or study reasons and still face too many architectonical and cultural barriers, which are hard to dismantle: services that aren’t widespread yet (for instance, elevators in the subway stations or ramps and lowered platforms on buses and trams) and that, often, even where they are, suffer from an insufficient maintenance (both in terms of functionality and, simply, of cleaning and decency), offices, shops and meeting and leisure places struggling to become really accessible to everyone, etc.
We often think that, so that a city (not just Milan) can really be “accessible”, you simply have to put ramps and elevators here and there (and that’s important, indeed!). But we all might learn to look at the spaces with the users’ eyes, considering that not all the disabled people use wheelchairs. So, for instance, the ramp, that’s fundamental for people using a wheelchair (of course, if it’s designed correctly), for those who walk on their own legs, but need to use crutches (or other similar aids) can represent an even more insuperable obstacle, compared with a simple step.
Milanopertutti has just started its journey, so, for the moment, I just welcome this new tool. But I cannot avoid wishing that, over the years (hopefully, not centuries) it could grow and answer the autonomous mobility needs of all the disabled people, and not just them. Since we can’t forget this: a city (and, broadening our focus with a little bit of ambition, a world) fitting for all isn’t just good for a limited part of the community (disabled and elderly people, children), but represents an advantage for the whole community.
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