Accessible beaches: how to identify them?

Discussions about the need to furtherly increase the number of accessible beaches, in Italy and abroad, are always more frequent. They’d enable everyone, including elderly or disabled people and families, to enjoy a holiday at the sea without worries or architectonical barriers. But how to identify really accessible beaches and beach resorts? What are the features they need to have?

Let’s start saying that, so that a beach or beach resort is considered accessible in accordance with laws, it a boardwalk allowing to easily go from to the resort to the beach and vice versa isn’t enough. There are different disabilities and, therefore, the individual needs are different and all of them must be satisfied as best as we can.

The National Laboratory of Accessible Tourism has written down guidelines to help clarifying the fundamental requirements for accessible beaches:

  1. a parking area near the beach resort;
  2. an adequate and recognisable footpath, leading to the beach resort;
  3. the access to the beach reception and coffee bar;
  4. an adequate bathroom;
  5. an adequate shower;
  6. access to the beach equipped area (beach umbrellas, beach loungers, etc.) through an adequate boardwalk;
  7. an adequate changing room;
  8. a specific guidance and orientation system for blind and partially-sighted people.

accessible beaches

Maybe you’ve noticed that there’s a recurring adjective, in the list above: “adequate”, that is complying with the law no. 13 of January 9th 1989Regulations to promote the overtaking and removal of architectonical barriers in private buildings” and with the Circular no. 259 of January 23rd 1990 by the Merchant Marine Ministry, that applies it to the beach resorts as well; as regards accessibility to coffee bars and restaurants, the reference law is the 236/89 ministerial decree.

Should even just one of these essential requirements be lacking, the beach resort or the beach cannot be marked as accessible.

Furthermore, there are “optimal” requirements, meaning that they aren’t essential, but desirable, to ensure that the beach or the resort are fully accessible:

  1. a reserved parking area near the resort entrance;
  2. access to all the offered services (leisure area, catering, etc.)
  3. possibility to pick a seat on the beach that can be equipped and made accessible;
  4. presence of aids to go in and out the water;
  5. presence, in the leisure area, of games that can be safely used by disabled children as well.

In addition to the infrastructural requirements, it’s useful to point out also the typical services of accessible beaches: the availability of clear and up-to-date information and communications about the beach offer, t allow a choice that is adequate to all the customers’ needs; the constant maintenance of infrastructures to guarantee a seamless quality service; the hospitality the structure should provide people with special needs with, ensuring not just as much autonomy as possible, but also support provided by qualified and properly trained staff, to answer the demand of hosts with special needs.

Luckily, also in Italy there’s a growing number of accessible resorts under this perspective as well: we hope they won’t be a commendable exception, but the standard.