“Ciak si aggira”: bypassing architectonical barriers is a game

We all know how many architectonical barriers who lives with a disability, but also who goes around our cities with little children or bulky luggage, has to face on a daily basis. Many of these barriers arise from disregard or carelessness (for instance, cars parked in front of ramps which enable people on a wheelchair to access a sidewalk). How to raise the awareness of the community, and, hence, of the (local and national) administrations towards the need to project spaces that are really “accessible”? An effective way can be, for instance, starting from the children, getting them used to this mindset through a game. This is the starting point of “Ciak si aggira“, a board game for children from 6 years old created by Ermio De Luca, an engineer with a disability, who, as a consequence, directly knows this issue.

Ciak si aggira

the plot

The “Ciak si aggira” characters are six children: Fabio, Giorgio, Mauro, Adele, Fanny and Marta, plus the “guest star” Isotta, the wheelchair Fabio uses to move around. The six friends live together a lot of adventures and enjoy moving around the city, to discover new places: will they be able to do it without having architectonical barriers to rain on their parade?

Ciak si aggira - the six friends and Isotta

how does “ciak si aggira” work?

The principle “Ciak si aggira” is based on is the same as the well-known game of the goose:  the players, using pieces, must move along the path designed on the board, recognizing and, precisely, bypassing the architectonical barriers they bump into, also getting to know the effects that those obstacles have on the mobility of people using a wheelchair or walking sticks to move.

The game is issed by La Macina Onlus, costs € 19.50 and can be requested sending an e-mail to  emailtowork@libero.it. If you’re looking for a gift idea that is funny, but also useful and smart for your children, you’ve found it!

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!

 

Barbara Garlaschelli: “Sensuality arises from our mind”

Barbara Garlaschelli

Picture by ©Giampaolo Poli

A few days ago, I talked to you about “Non volevo morire vergine“, the latest book by the Milanese writer Barbara Garlaschelli. In the surge of emotions raised by the book, I got in touch with her and she was immediately available to have a remote conversation with me for Move@bility. Here you have it!

  • First of all, I’d like to thank you for writing “Non volevo morire vergine”: a book that really tugs your heartstrings, and more. Why did you decide to put on paper in a book such an intimate part of your life?  Because I wanted to talk about the sex/disability taboo and, to do it, I chose autobiography to avoid stereotypes and to be able to personally account for what I wrote. Writing is also a matter of accountability and, when you deal with such a delicate subject, you can’t generalize: disabled people aren’t a “category”, but individuals, each one with his own story.  
  • Which part was the hardest to talk about? My father’s death, for sure.

"Non volevo morire vergine"

  • Reading your books, listening to your interviews and readings, an enormous energy and positivity emerge: where can we buy them? I’ve been a lucky woman: I’ve had two great parents, who taught me to live, struggling for my happiness, never backing down. Moreover, my attitude helped me: I’m determined and stubborn. I’m a curious woman and curiosity is a motivation which pushes you to see what’s going on tomorrow…
  • Let’s get into the subject of your book. Even reading some comments to your interviews in these days on social media, it’s clear that there’s an enduring “resistance” to seeing us, disabled people, also as subjects (and objects) of sexual pleasure. Why, based on your own experience, is it so hard to eradicate the taboo around sexuality (and affectivity) of disabled people and, particularly, of disabled women?  First of all, because we live in a Catholic country where sex is, tout court, still seen as a “sin”, something not to mention, if not in a low voice. We’re culturally underdeveloped, scared straight. Being a woman is the logical consequence of what I’ve said: women have to work twice as hard to show their value. Not just in Italy, unfortunately.
  • In your book, you also talk about some men’s embarrassment while confronting with you “from that point of view”: their absurd questions (“But you… there…?”), their awkwardness in the “physical” management of the situation, etc. Such experiences often end up discouraging from trying new approaches: how did you pass that block?  Joining the fray! Fighting against my fear of being rejected. Risking, that’s the only way to live: fear is the worst enemy, I was my worst enemy.
  • Some time ago, I read, on the Internet, the comment by a (theoretically, “able-bodied”) man who stated that “having sex with a disabled woman is always a crime, because there can’t be any consent”. Apart from the nonsense (except for people who are unfit to plead, of course), I had the opportunity to experience personally that some people, even without saying it, agree with it: how can we help them understand that it isn’t so (without bringing up a lawyer, maybe)? I wouldn’t go out of my own way to make such people understand anything. I’d prefer not to spend time with them, and I actually don’t.
  • What would you suggest to a disabled woman without any “willing” friend at her disposal to test her femininity or overtake a “block”?  No, I can’t give advices: everyone has her own road. If I really have to give an advice, it’s to take the risk and walk that road, which, for sure, is in front of every one of us. A “no” won’t kill you. If you give yourself a chance, “yes” will come as well.
  • You tell you’ve also used the online chats, to meet men. Nowadays, there are dating apps “for disabled people” and dating sites addressed to disabled people (and who “loves” them). To me, I have to admit it, they seem to be a little bit sad “ghettos” (even though I love the web, for “that” purpose I still prefer the good old, face to face approach, maybe arisen by chance). What’s your opinion? I think that they’re just another way to meet people. Clearly, there should be (if you want it, but it isn’t a “must”) a “live” meet and there you’ll understand whether you’re really interested in that person or not. But I’m not closed to virtual approaches: it’s just another way to meet, I repeat. It can be funny and even a good way to talk about yourself. You know, idiot people are everywhere, inside and outside the Internet.
  • In your opinion, does a woman who gets disabled during her life (for instance, during her adolescence, as it happened to you, or after) have more chances to keep the perception of her femininity (and the ability to show it to others), compared with another woman who was born disabled (or got it in her earlier years)? I don’t know, I can’t answer this question, since I can only answer based on my personal experience. I, without being aware of it, have always kept it.
  • The main “Move@bility” topic is accessibility, particularly with a physical meaning. How much do architectonical barriers weigh on the possibility to live and express your own sexuality and affectivity? A lot: the ability to move without issues is one of the fundamental things to fight for.  Italy is a total barrier. For who has movement issues, it’s like hell. And that forces a lot of people to stay close at home: it’s like living under house arrest despite being innocent.
  • Let’s end our chat with something more “frivolous”: how can you remain sexy even using a wheelchair or a walking stick, when high heels aren’t even an option, I mean? Personally, I learned to show what I think is beautiful, in my body. Then, you know, sensuality arises from your mind: you must feel sexy there.

Accessibility: Kimap maps Bologna too

We already talked, some time ago, about Kimap, the digital ecosystem developed by Kinoa srl aiming to map the architectonical barriers in our cities, paying particular attention to the accessibility for people with a motoric disability. After Florence, now it was Bologna’s turn. Here, the mapping process involved the streets that, starting from the Central Station, lead to the most important monuments and the centre of the city and the university area. Overall, the Kimappers mapped the accessibility of about 8 km of streets daily traversed by tourists and citizens.

Accessibility map of Bologna

Mapping of the centre of Bologna

The green dots represent a good level of accessibility for the street, the yellow ones indicate small obstacles and vibrations averagely impacting on the path, the red ones indicate a danger registered through very emphasized vibrations of the wheelchair and through obstacles or stairs that are difficult to avoid. Then, the red symbol with the wheelchair indicates the presence of architectonical barriers, the purple one with the skittle the presence of a temporary obstacle, while the orange symbol signals a slope that’s hard to traverse.

As always, all the job has been carried out with the precious contribution of the Kimappers, the community of users and volunteers (whose number constantly grows) who daily share paths, obstacles, experience and tourist itineraries that are accessible also for people who, to move, uses a wheelchair or other aids.

Kimap - smartphone app

The Kimap project sure doesn’t stop here: the next steps include the release of the free app on the most important stores for mobile devices and further tests in the most renowned tourist cities in our Country. The next stage has been decided already: i twill be Rome, our capital city, that attracts millions of tourists from all over the world. A big challenge, indeed, given the particular features of the wonderful (but not very accessible indeed) “eternal city”!

We’ll talk about it for sure on this website, of course: stay tuned!

Kimap: technology supporting accessibility

It would be great to be able to go around without bumping into any architectonical barrier, wouldn’t it? Unfortunately, it’s impossible to make this dream come true in a short while. Then, what do we have to do? Accepting the status quo and wait for a magic wand to remove all the obstacles or doing something concrete? The Kimap creators chose the second option.

Kimap logo

Kimap - app per smartphone

What’s Kimap? It’s an “anti-barriers” digital ecosystem, made up by an app for smartphones (that will soon be available both for Android and IOS devices) helping to map the architectonical barriers and serve as a “barrier-free” GPS, helping people with disability to easily move along the mapped paths, a user-friendly IoT (Internet of Things) device, that improves the results of mapping, keeping them constantly up-to-date, and a community of users that confirm or update live le info obtained through the mapping process. Kimap has been promoted and designed by Kinoa, an innovative start-up founded one year ago to design innovative products integrating Big Data and Internet of Things technologies.

A few days ago, in Florence, the Kimap creators organized the first “live”mapping of the city, companioning with the kimapper Armando Dei, who covered on his wheelchair some strategic points of the city both for tourists and citizens moving for business, study and other reasons. The mapping involved: the Campo di Marte railway station, Piazza Beccaria towards the old town centre and the Sant’Ambrogio market; via Maragliano, piazza San Jacopino and Viale Redi, Ponte Vecchio, Piazza Pitti, Santo Spirito and Piazza del Carmine.

Kimap

The kimapper Armando Dei

The mapping allowed to obtain various maps in real time, directly stored on the kimapper’ smartphone. They assess the architectonical barriers using three colours: the green dots indicate a street with a good accessibility level; the yellow ones indicate small obstacles and minimum risk of vibrations during the path; finally, the red dots indicate a sign of primary risk registered by very strong vibrations of the wheelchair and by obstacles and stairs hard to overcome. Moreover, black is used to mark “not-accessible” roads, that cannot be safely covered due to the lack of sidewalks and/or a very damaged asphalt. Using the Kimap app, the user can also point out other temporary obstacles, building sites and slopes that are hard to face.

Kimap la mappa

The map of Campo di Marte’s area

The Kimap project has just started and the team is still working on the app and on the device improvement. After Florence, real time mappings will be carried out in other cities, companioning with associations, universities and local administrations. It’s gonna be a long and complex job, but the premises to success are excellent. Good luck, Kimap!

 

Fiscal facilitations for disabled people: what’s new in 2017

The Income Revenue Authority has recently made available the updated version of its Guide to the Fiscal Facilitations for People with Disability (you can download it for free in PDF format here). The January 2017 update includes 3 main news:

So, let’s see in detail the news about the fiscal facilitations for disabled people for 2017.

agevolazioni fiscali 2017

fiscal facilitations: expenses for healthcare and aids

In this case, the news about fiscal facilitations for 2017 concerns the documents to present in order to benefit from them.  Specifically, those whose invalidity or handicap has been certified by a commission (as per the 104/92 law) may use a self-certification, specifying who and when certified their invalidity or handicap. Of course, it’s always possible that, at a later time, you are required to present the documents, therefore it’s absolutely advisable not to act as “wise guys”!

You always have to save the fiscal document (sales receipt, invoice, etc.) demonstrating the expense. Moreover, in case of prostheses and aids (including the technological ones), you’d always better save the medical prescription demonstrating the need in order to improve the quality of life of the disabled person.

FISCAL facilitations: insurance POLIcies

Other news about the fiscal facilitations for disabled people concern the insurance policies including risk of death or of permanent invalidity not lower than 5% or of not being self-sufficient in the execution of the normal daily activities.  Those policies already benefited from a 19% Irpef deduction, for a maximum amount of 530 €, for the insurances including risk of death or permanent invalidity, and 1.291,14 € for those covering the risk of not being self-sufficient, respectively. The news concerns the increase from 530 to 750 € of the amount that can be deducted for the premiums deposited for people with a severe disability, that cover the risk of death.

FISCAL facilitations: architectonical barriers

Regarding interventions to remove architectonical barriers, the limits to benefit from the higher deductions have been postponed. For building renovation interventions (e.g.: elevators, goods lifts, robotics/ home automation and other technology innovations allowing to assist the internal and external mobility of people with disability), you can benefit from an Irpef deduction that’s equal to:

  • 50%, to be calculated on a maximum amount of 96,000 €, for expenses from June 26th 2012 and December 31st 2017;
  • 36%, to be calculated on a maximum amount of 48,000 €, for expenses from January 1st 2018.

As of today, conditions to benefit from all the other facilitations (for instance, buying a car) don’t change.

Sexuality and disabled people: an enduring taboo

Do disabled people have sex or are, simply, interested in sexuality and in coupledom like the “normal” ones? If we only give a superficial look at the situation, in Italy and abroad, the answer to this question could seem negative. But, actually, things are “quite different”.

Lorella Ronconi

Lorella Ronconi (© Maria Vittoria Peccatori)

We’ll talk about it with Lorella Ronconi, Knight of the Italian Republic for spending her life to establish and protect the disabled people rights, including that to affectivity and sexuality. Lorella,  who is affected by a heavily disabling physical disability, has a solid working background in associations, non-profit organizations, local institutions, where she has put her typically Tuscan stubbornness at the service of the rights of who has no voice, fighting to remove architectonical and cultural barriers that still weigh on the life of millions of disabled people, not just in Italy.

– Hi, Lorella, and thanks for your willingness to have this chat. Would you like to introduce yourself to Move@bility’s friends? 

I’m a Tuscan 54 woman and, even though, since when I was 2, I’ve been living with a chronic genetic disease, I’m still in love with life. Thanks to my parents and to knowledgeable teachers, I was among the first disabled people in Italy who attended “normal” schools. My attitude and openness towards others have always led me to be personally committed to social work. I’m very keen on arts, poetry and web, particularly on social media, that I see as essential tools to overtake cultural barriers which still ghettoize us, disabled people.

– Let’s immediately get to the main subject of this meeting: disabled people and sexuality. Why is this topic still a taboo, in 2016?

At the bottom of the taboo there’s a view of the disabled individual as “sick”, while disability is, above all, a permanent condition (both physical or psychic). Generally, when I deal with this topic in public contexts, I use the following example: when someone is in bed with flu, it’s hard to see him as sexually desirable, so you only take care of him to help him getting over. Well, who sees the combination among disabled people and sexuality as a taboo looks at us, disabled people, as if we’d be permanently in bed with flu: then, woe betide seeing us as sexually desirable or, even less so, active! In the best case, they consider us as eternal children, by nature lacking sexual impulses and desires.

– For disabled women (and we’re well aware of this, since we’re both part of this category), this topic is even more “sensitive”, since it feels the effect of the same cultural legacy that, for centuries, has seen (and, in some cultures, still sees) woman as an “object” and not a “subject”, when it comes to sexual impulses. But is it so, actually?

The different way to look at the two genders is a fact among “able-bodied” people, as you said. Even when we talk about sexuality, we almost automatically think to the disabled man, as if we, the disabled women, didn’t have that need. Media also contribute to empower this opinion: there are still too fee movies, just to give an example, where disability, in all its facets, is described “from a female perspective”. But sexual impulse isn’t linked to the way we walk, see, hear: it’s naturally inside us as human beings, without any difference, apart from the “mechanical” part, among the two sexes, regardless of any disability.

-In your opinion, the advent of the sexual assistant is an effective solution and, if so, is it effective for both sexes? Does it satisfy the natural need for affectivity, besides satisfying instincts (that are natural as well, of course)?

Both for male or female disabled people, sexual assistant, alone, isn’t enough to answer, with a magic wand, all the individuals’ specific needs, even more so in such a delicate field as affectivity and sex. I think we lack a clear project, at a national level, to “design” this professional profile, that, as it is commonly considered, for sure answer more effectively the male “mechanical” needs. For women, it’s a little bit more complex – even at a “mechanical” level- in addition to our greater need for an emotional involvement. We’d need to establish a well-designed professional profile, able to fully answer the “physiological” and emotional needs (these are, for instance, satisfied by the “cuddle-therapy”) of disabled people, both men and women. Prior to the sexual assistant, we must train professional profiles such as care workers, consultants, psychologists and psychiatrists, so that they actually know that disabled people have also sexual and emotional needs to satisfy and can be ready to effectively answer these licit needs. On the contrary, nowadays, too often, the “problem is solved” prescribing bromide pills (which only inhibit libido) or transferring everything, once again, to families, with heavy psychological effects, for parents who have to satisfy their sons “physiological” needs also in such an intimate field and, when ask for help or advice, hardly find people ready to effectively answer their doubts.

– How important is the emotional and sentimental part, in the sexual life of a disabled individual (regardless of the specific gender)? 

It’s fundamental, since love is life, for everyone, including disabled people.

– Let’s try to figure out a scene: two individuals, a disabled and an “able-bodied”, together, in a “very lovely” attitude. In most of cases, people looking at them think they are friends, relatives or, at most, a patient and his/her caregiver/assistant. How can we make those that you effectively defined “dull people” understand that this is absolutely normal?  

We’re in the age of communication, so let’s use it! We need a lot of awareness campaigns also about sexuality, an essential part of the disabled people life, as it is for everyone else. We must “shock”, letting them see first-hand that disability isn’t the opposite of sex and laws of attraction, even towards the “able-bodied”.

– In your opinion, what can we do, under an institutional and cultural perspective, to promote a culture of real acceptance of disability as a condition not to pity, but to see as absolutely normal, overthrowing not only architectonical barriers, but also (and above all) the cultural ones?

Standing up for it, let other people see that we are human beings, not sick pets to take care of. Plus, commit ourselves to see the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (signed by Italy in 2009) and the existing laws about architectonical barriers removal  followed, also allocating an adequate budget. But, above all, we, disabled people, must “act as a network” and go into politics, commit personally, together, to get an outcome. Only in Italy, according to ISTAT data, there are more than 4 million of disabled people, plus their relatives: we must “make noise”. We’re not invisible and we mustn’t be so, even when it comes to advertising and marketing: how long will we have to wait until a disabled testimonial appears in a “cool” brand commercial?

We’re looking forward to that! And maybe… Stay tuned! 

No Barriere: the app to point architectonical barriers out

A few days ago, in Rome took place the launch of “No Barriere”, the app developed by the Luca Coscioni Association to improve the urban spaces accessibility, for the disabled citizens, but not just for them.

Barriere app

The app principle of operation is easy:

  1. First, download the app on your smartphone (it’s available for free both for IOS and Android devices) or use the web browser version and create your user profile adding name, surname, e-mail address and phone number, or using your Google of Facebook existing account.
  2. Activating the Position services and using your smartphone camera, you can take a picture of an architectonical barrier (or pick it from the gallery of your device) and, through the “Invia una segnalazione” (“Send a warning”) area, send it to the system, that will add it to the Warnings map, available on the app itself. Moreover, from the same area, you can send a pre-filled e-mail message to your municipality, to demand the barrier removal.
  3. In the Warnings map, the existing architectonical barriers are marked in red, while green is used for those that have been removed already.

The app goal isn’t simply to map all the existing architectonical barriers, but also (and above all), ensure that local administrations do something to remove them.

Even though the current law about architectonical barriers dates back to 1986, and, in theory, all the local administrations have arranged the so-called PEBAs (Plans for the Removal of Architectonical Barriers), everyone can see that, too frequently, accessing public and private buildings, but also streets and common spaces, is impossible for people with a motoric or sensory disability. It happens due to the existence of architectonical barriers, or, in many cases, the realization of measures that aren’t adequate to guarantee the accessibility to all the people.

Since, when thinking about “disabled people”, people usually tend to think about people moving on wheelchairs. Hence (in theory), it would be enough to put a ramp here and there to remove the obstacles. But, for many disabled people, the ramp itself is an architectonical barrier, especially if it’s too steep or has no handrail available (for people walking with crutches or sticks) or signal for blind and deaf people.

Therefore, this app is more than welcome, if it will effectively contribute to improve the life of the whole community, thanks to the contribution of all citizens. Since a city without architectonical barriers is a more accessible, and better, place for everyone.