Cyprus Mail

Public buildings off limits to those in wheelchairs

Photo taken outside parliament on October 9 showing a car blocking a side entrance. No one in a wheelchair would have been able to enter

By Constantinos Psillides

THE disabled in Cyprus face far greater hurdles than those in many other countries, the chairman of the Paraplegics Association (OPAK) told the House human rights committee on Monday.

Demetris Lambrianides was highly critical of the lack of state initiatives to make life easier for the disabled, explaining that his organisation receives dozens of complaints on a daily basis regarding accessibility to public buildings, public transportation and hospitals.

“We have an abundance of fundraisers for the disabled but we are still poor in sensitivity,” he said.

As a case in point, the head of OPAK had to make his statements to the press in the House of Representatives atrium, since the press room isn’t wheelchair accessible.

MPs likewise made their statements in the atrium, protesting the press room’s lack of accessibility.

Human rights committee chairman, DIKO MP Sofoclis Fittis, told the press that the state needs to revisit the 1999 directive regarding disabled access to public buildings, adding that the committee decided to send a letter to the communications and works ministry, demanding that the planning bureau for policies regarding disabled people be reactivated.

The bureau was dissolved some years ago and its responsibilities were transferred to other departments.

Fittis also made clear that all legislation regarding accessibility must be enacted.

Regarding public buildings, the committee chairman pointed out that out of the 101 buildings currently rented by the state, 67 don’t have disabled car parking, 48 are not wheelchair accessible, 57 don’t have accessible toilets, 40 are not equipped with elevators that can accommodate a wheelchair and 95 of them lack tactile paving, which prevents blind or visually impaired people from accessing them.

The accessibility of the GSP stadium in Nicosia came to light again, as Lambrianides once more protested the fact that the stadium currently only has 25 seats available to disabled people. Last month Lambrianides once again protested the lack of access to the GSP, while also asking able-bodied citizens to refrain from parking at disabled parking spots near the stadium.

Fittis pointed out that the disabled spaces in stadiums are designated depending on capacity. A 20,000-seat stadium like GSP should provide 200 disabled spaces, he said.

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