“I don’t have to stay in the main shopping street anymore”
My name is Geert Dumoulin, aged 55. I am married and father of 5 children. Since I had a car accident when I was 22, I spend my life in a wheelchair.
As a passionate construction worker I had never expected that there would be so many barriers: roads and boardwalks in a poor condition, lacking signage, inaccessible entrances and barely any public accessible toilets.
Visiting Bruges wasn’t easy, then. Usually, we would only walk in the main shopping street, because I didn’t want to be confronted with inaccessibility all the time. Historical buildings typically had a main entrance with steps and practically never a ramp or an alternative entrance. Shops, pubs and restaurants didn’t have an accessible toilet. And if they had it, nobody knew. I was lucky to have a partner who could assist me.
Today, the websites www.visitflanders.com/accessibility and (in Dutch) www.toevla.be provide the necessary (checked) information to help you organise a trip or holiday.
The map and brochure ‘Bruges accessible for everybody’ help so much. The itinerary leads almost seamlessly to the highlights of the city. The description of points of interest, restaurants, pubs, etc. is a must-read. Public toilets are described in a clear way, with photographs, starting from the path towards them. For accommodation, accessibility labels are used, with more information in the specific brochures from Visit Flanders.
So, when I visit Bruges now, I don’t have to stay in the main shopping street anymore!
Find out more about how Bruges is being made accessible to visitors by reading the factsheet.
“Now I can even invite some of my friends with disabilities to the beach.”
I am Wael Galmouch, and I have always been fond of going to the beach, where my friends and I would walk around and relax. Then I had my accident. I became physically disabled, and since the beach tents that we used to go to were not accessible for people with disabilities, I had to wait for the few occasions when my friends would carry me there. But it was not the same as before, because I had to stay in one spot. I could not reach the water, and we had to cut our trip short when I needed to use the bathroom.
Things changed, however, when the Lebanese Physical Handicapped Union initiated the “Inclusive Tourism” project in Lebanon and adapted tent number 19, the dock from the parking area to the water, in addition to providing an accessible bathroom and menu. Now I am back to visiting the beach as I used to do before my accident, and I can even invite some of my friends with disabilities to join me now that it has become available for all.
Find out more about how LPHU are making tourism inclusive in Lebanon by reading the factsheet.
“In our shop all persons with disabilities can make any purchase by themselves.”
My name is Marta Gomis, and I am a 27-year-old girl with Down syndrome. Since October 2010, I have been a shop assistant at the “For & From” Tempe shop in Elche. For me this job is like winning a prize, because I always wished to work in contact with people and in the world of fashion. Encouraged by my parents, I took a vocational training course on commerce. Afterwards, I came in contact with APSA Association, and with my trainers I improved my competences.
Now I have already been working in the shop for seven years, thanks to the opportunity that Tempe gave me. My colleagues and my trainer from APSA help me a lot, and together we solve the little challenges of every day.
I love to help our customers. To service people that I already know makes me especially proud and happy. The experience of these seven years has helped me to become self-confident and to perform my tasks efficiently.
Our shop is very unique since it is a fully accessible space, and is designed so that persons with disabilities like me can work with complete autonomy and independence. Since its opening, adaptations have been made in the shop so that any customer can come on their own. Today, persons with a physical or sensorial disability can make any purchase by themselves, and if they need help, I am ready to provide it!
Read more about how APSA provides the possibility of barrier-free Shopping by reading the factsheet.
“The PR department has added the option of sending complaints by SMS.”
My name is Revital Swirski-Shurtz. I am a council member in Kiryat Bialik, a municipality in northern Israel. As a person using a wheelchair, I am very much aware of the need for accessibility and am very active in promoting accessibility in my municipality.
My municipality employees have attended three accessibility training sessions conducted by Access Israel, in addition to their famous “Accessibility Tastes Dinner” for the management team.
Besides the fact that the employees were all very moved and excited by the training, one consequence has been that the Collection Department – which has a lot of interaction with the local residents – installed accessibility systems for the hearing and vision impaired, added accessible seats to the waiting area, and even installed an accessible watercooler. The employees have become much more sensitive to and aware of the needs of people with disabilities and say they now feel more confident to communicate with them.
Another innovation is that the Public Relations department has added the option of sending complaints by SMS and has provided a special customized service for people with disabilities. Further, all official ceremonies and events are now fully accessible. More and more residents with disabilities have started to feel comfortable in their interactions with the municipality, and so attend more events and deal more independently directly with the municipality.
Find out more about how Access Israel has developed a business model for training service providers regarding issues of accessibility by reading the factsheet.
“A few weeks later I was using the little vision I had, together with the white cane and echo location.”
My name is Danyl and I am 12 years old. I was a normal kid, running around with my friends and biking through the nearby hills, until one day, when I was eight, I woke up in the middle of the night. It was hard to breathe so I woke my dad and he phoned an ambulance. The last thing I said was: “I’m dying, dad! I’m dying!” I was on life support for several weeks, and for months afterwards I was completely blind and couldn’t walk at all.
The first week of school in August 2007, three years later, you brought Kerrie and Alex to my primary school. They were blind too, and I think you were training them to be teachers like you. By then, I still didn’t really know a lot about what had happened to me. When you guys first told me what you were about, I honestly thought you were joking. But by the end of the first day, I thought what you guys taught me was brilliant! A few months later, when you and Alex came back to my school, I had practiced my click and was able to do it properly, and I was using the hiking stick and learning the basics of the white cane. I found it really hard at first mixing all three – clicking, walking with the hiking stick, and using the cane. But when you and Alex returned again the next summer, I was surprised by how much walking and clicking we practiced, and I found it became easier.
A few weeks later, I was a lot more confident. When I first came around in the hospital and I really wanted to walk and see again, I didn’t think that all of this would be done for me. Now I definitely think I will be able to walk again and know my ability to see is improving, so I am really, really happy with all the help that I’ve received.
To find more about how the World Access for the Blind has created a technique that helps the visually impaired to use their own ‘human sonar’ to perceive their surroundings by reading the factsheet.
“Listening to audiobooks fills all of my free time.”
My name is Seren and I am from Kfar Bara, a village in the Triangle Area of Israel. I am very happy to express my enormous gratitude to AlManarah and share with you my experience of how its International Accessible Library saved me emotionally. I used to work as a nurse until I unexpectedly developed an eye disease, which resulted in blindness. I was so frustrated and depressed with my new condition I even contemplated committing suicide.
When I heard about the library from my brother, I became totally consumed with listening to audiobooks, which now fill all of my free time. The audio library of AlManarah has completely empowered me and enabled me to face the sudden loss of my vision.
Find out more about how Almanarah has developed the International Accessible Library by reading the factsheet.
I am Barb Most, and my first contact with South America for All was a trip to Ecuador/Galapagos and, later, to Peru’s Machu Picchu. I have a progressive neurodegenerative disease, very similar to Lou Gehrig’s disease, called Multiple Systems Atrophy, a rare brain disorder. It affects mobility by paralysis, ataxia, and incoordination. I had the limited use of a walker during my trip to Ecuador, but for the Peru trip I was mostly limited to a wheelchair.
Prior to my diagnosis, I was an active professional as a medical device auditor, which required travel both in the United States and abroad. I also had a busy personal life with my husband, son, and grandchildren, including hunting, fishing, and travelling. Then everything changed, but we decided we hadn’t lost our sense of fun and adventure or of our love of family travel.
South America for All provided the support and framework to travel with mobility impairments by planning for accessible restaurants, transportation, and hotels. They use custom designed wheelchairs for ocean beaches, rainforests, and the stairways of Machu Picchu. South America for All made the impossible possible, and also gave my husband and me the courage and confidence to plan other trips with our family.
Find out more about how South America For All offers tours to various South America destinations that are accessible by wheelchair users by reading the factsheet.
My name is Supriya Limbu and I live in eastern Nepal. I am a 12-year-old girl with cerebral palsy diplegia. My house is on a remote hill, adding more challenges in my day-to-day living.
I had a dream to go to school like other children, but because of my disability and difficult geographical terrain, it remained only a dream. I was in need of support from my family members even to go to my kitchen and to use the toilet.
When the Inspire2Care programme of the Karuna Foundation was introduced in my village, it opened ways to fulfil my dream. The programme helped my family to modify my living surroundings, including the construction of ramps from my room to the kitchen, front yard, and toilet. And the provision of a wheelchair has changed my daily living tremendously!
I am also going to school now, but my grandfather has to carry me on his back for more than half an hour each way as there is no road where a wheelchair can pass. I am growing and my body is changing, thus carrying me is becoming a challenge. In school, however, I have received a special chair, though I still need support to go to the toilet. Many friends come to speak with me and to offer help, and the teachers are friendly too!
I am happy with all these possibilities and changes :).
Find out more about how Karuna Foundation created more awareness about the importance of disability-inclusive societies by reading the factsheet.
I am Ramu, and I run a musical troupe along with my wife and my three brothers (who are also blind, like me). We’ve never received any formal education, but we have all learned music. We formed this troupe last year, when our father, a daily wage labourer, passed away and we were not able to run the household with the disability pension we received.
The music troupe has helped us to utilize the skills we’d developed over many years. However, we had no idea where we’d perform, so we would perform on roadsides, and people would pay us whatever they thought fit. We got only a few hundred rupees – not enough for all of us.
When I told my friend about this problem, he made me call Namma Vaani, and I knew I had found the right platform for me and my family. Through Namma Vaani, I heard stories of other persons with disabilities who had found solutions to overcome their barriers and had become financially independent, and I received advice on how my brothers and I could live a life of dignity and independence.
When I decided to record a clip about my troupe, offering to perform at events, I wasn’t expecting much out of it. After all, why would people listen to me? Imagine my surprise when we booked six events within one month – all through Namma Vaani! We earned 30,000 rupees, finally enough money to arrange for a critical operation for my niece, who was rapidly losing her eyesight.
I still post frequently on Namma Vaani. We have five more events lined up, and I’m sure we’ll get many more in the future. I started this journey thinking that as long as I could earn money, I would be fine, but I found something much bigger – dignity. I now have a platform where I can speak and be heard, and I now actively seek out the opportunities I want, instead of waiting for opportunities to be given to me.
Find out more how Namma Vaani developed a mobile phone-based information sharing service about accessible opportunities in rural India by reading the factsheet.
“A vocal-tactile paving system for the independence of visually impaired people.”
My name is Giulio Nardone, and I am blind. As the National President of the Italian Association of Visually Impaired People, the goal of my last 40 years’ activity has been to increase the autonomy of visually impaired people in all circumstances of their lives.
As a blind person, I soon learned to move on my own, recognizing obstacles through my white cane. The real problem, however, has always been to move around in wide-open areas without natural guides. In 2013, in cooperation with the company JKJ srl, we added to every tactile tile a Radio Frequency Tag (created by myself back in 1995) that can send vocal messages to my smartphone and headphones using a special white cane.
Using this new version of tactile paving, called LVE System (Loges-Vet-Evolution), it is much easier for me to follow a path, to know the exact point where I am, the name of streets, the location of the several services on my route, and even the hours of operation. Before LVE, all this was impossible. This now allows me to be totally independent, as I do not need anyone to escort me in order to move freely within the city. Once the system spreads to stations, airports, hospitals, and public spaces, the problems of orientation and security of visually impaired people will be progressively solved.
Read more about how JKJ Srl and Associazione Disabili Visivi Onlus help persons with visual impairments to navigate safelyby reading the factsheet.