Shame of non-access

In an age when we boast of new air-conditioned, fully accessible public transport, when we spend hundreds of thousands to host a song contest to promote Maltese talent (and rightly so) and where we have an entity working with the Malta Environment and Planning Authority and responsible for having accessible structures – after all this – I still can’t understand how government offices that provide indispensable services to the community are by no means rated accessible.

A 20-year-old young man who went to Evans Building in Merchants Street, Valletta was faced with a flight of stairs which were absolutely inaccessible to him as he was using a motorised wheelchair for mobility purposes. The young man and his parents had to go back home and return another day, as when they phoned to complain about the situation they were not even advised that for such mobility requirements a home visit can be set up. On the second visit the battery powering the young man’s wheelchair was left behind at home, depriving him of his independence, but making the wheelchair lighter, in order for the father to carry his son on the wheelchair up the flight of steps into the office and then back down.

Having to be carried up a flight of steps in your wheelchair in order to get an ordinary public service is disgraceful. It is not just degrading but also an insult to any person who has such a mobility impairment.

Steps are not only inaccessible to wheelchair users but also to those who have mobility restrictions, the elderly and parents with young children in buggies.

That our government cannot afford to make its own buildings accessible is beyond my understanding. Alternattiva Demokratika – The Green Party believes that accessibility is a basic human right and should be prioritised in a just and inclusive society.

by Claire L. Azzopardi Lane, spokesman for disability issues, Alternattiva Demokratika, Valletta