Wikimania 2016 bids/Esino Lario/Safety/Accessibility report
Wikimania Esino Lario 2016 - Accessibility report
Site visit on May 9 2015
- Author : Gabriel Thullen
- Date : May 9 2015
As a Wikimedia CH board member, I feel that this personal evaluation is part of what I can do to help make this event a success. This report is a personal initiative, and does not constitute an official board sanctioned report.
I will provide a bit of background information on myself as this may flavor my evaluation of the accessibility of Esino Lario for disabled attendees. I am a wheelchair user since a motorcycle accident in September 1986 which left me both amputee and partially paraplegic. I normally use a manual wheelchair but I can also walk a bit with crutches. I have always been an active athlete, both before and after my accident, and currently play wheelchair basketball at the highest level in France (details on http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gabriel_Thullen). I have also traveled extensively with my wheelchair, all over Europe, North & South America and Africa. I am not an expert on accessibility certification, but I do have a long experience in finding ways of coping with all sorts of situations both in supposedly wheelchair accessible European and American cities as well as in less wheelchair friendly countries.
Esino Lario is a mountain village. Quite a few streets are flat, but most of them have a reasonable slope while a few streets, mostly “shortcuts”, are quite steep. There are a lot of cobble stones which might make things more difficult in case of rain, and the ride can get bumpy at times. A lot of older buildings have one or more steps up to main entrance, but there usually is a side door which could be used. The more recent buildings are wheelchair accessible or can be made so with minimal adjustments. The total distance that needs to be traveled between venues is not that great, but some have a large difference in elevation.
Prepare a detailed street map with elevation and gradient in ⁰/₀₀. Post clear street signs indicating the location of ramps, both on buildings and on the maps. Set up regular “public transportation” for disabled participants. Disabled persons should have priority in all transportation between venues. Provide electric assistance for wheelchair users (such as http://www.orthoconcept.ch/fr/rehabilitation/chaises/systemes-de-traction.php) Eurokey : most European cities are now introducing the Eurokey which can be used to unlock disabled facilities. A system needs to be set up to loan such keys if necessary (http://www.myhandicap.com/en/community-board/board/board/forum-action/list-posts/topic/eurokey_necessary_for_europe/).
Things to avoid
I have encountered many frustrations during my travels over the past few decades. I am not talking about locations that were never meant to be wheelchair accessible such as antique monuments, the Inca Pirca or Timbuktu. I am talking about cities like Paris, Rome or Stockholm, I will try to list a few of these frustrations as “things to avoid”, and I hope that none of these will happen in Esino Lario. Modern public buildings should be wheelchair accessible. What I have always said is that if it were the Men that pushed toddlers around in strollers, all public buildings would have been wheelchair accessible one hundred years ago… Wheelchair entrances should be clearly indicated, both on the building and on the map. If a venue is not wheelchair accessible, it should also be clearly indicated. Usually public opinion will then react strongly… A ramp is of no use if the passage is cluttered. I have many unfortunate memories of having to wind my way around piles of smelly trash bags in order to enter or leave museums and restaurants… Legislation in most European countries mandate disabled toilet facilities. Unfortunately, once built these seldom used spaces are then used for storage. This has even happened in schools where I work…