By Lucie Robson
While the current drafting of a Council of Europe Strategy on Disability national action plan announced in recent days looks good on paper, it is daily practicalities I have a problem with.
Under this European initiative, people with disabilities are defined as “those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory impairments which, in interaction with various barriers, may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others”.
The objective is to tackle this on eight fronts: Accessibility, Education, Employment and Training, Participation, Education, Social Protection, Health and External Action.
I would add two more points; the privilege of being able to use the restroom in a restaurant you have just patronised and that of moving along a pavement unhindered.
Time and time again in Paphos I see neither of these needs being respected.
The National Action Plan for Disability (2017-2020), as it is officially known, is only one strand of activity aimed at improving the lives of people with physical disabilities. It is necessary but cannot resolve all the issues faced by such people, as defined above.
For instance, if drivers continue to park their cars on pavements in a willy-nilly manner that blocks a pedestrian’s path, I can’t see that the National Action Plan for Disability is going to be very effective.
Sometimes, if I’m carrying a few bags, I’m retarded on my path along a pavement because a vehicle occupies the middle of it.
I can just about get by it if I either raise my shopping above my waist and walk sideways or step into the road.
Anyone in a wheelchair or using a walker can forget it. They must wait until the selfish driver reappears.
And how many Paphos toilets are simply inaccessible? What must it be like to have limited mobility and to have spent money in a bar or restaurant to find that to reach the washroom you need to go up one of those precarious winding metal staircases that Paphos is full of?
Even I tread carefully on those and I’m (touch wood) able-bodied.
I don’t know how some of these venues pass tourism and planning criteria.
If the police don’t start getting tough on illegal parking and venues can carry on plonking their toilet wherever it suits them, the National Action Plan for Disability will, ultimately, not be worth the paper it is printed on.