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Greek Acropolis to Finally Improve Disabled Access

Greek Acropolis to Finally Improve Disabled Access

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The ancient Greeks built vast public temple complexes, but it has taken up to the 21st century for the nation to begin meeting modern disabled accessibility standards. For the first time in its long history the ancient Greek buildings that represent Athens’s Acropolis will be made completely accessible to disabled locals and tourists.

Comprising uneven cobblestone streets and broken curbs, the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports announced today that they will “improve the visiting conditions of the monuments at the Acropolis.” While other nations have viewed access to historic and public sites for the disabled as a civil right for decades, as evidenced by the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990 in the United States of America or EU accessibility standards implemented throughout Europe, for the first time in history the ancient site will be “completely accessible not only to the disabled, but also to citizens with mobility or other health problems.”

Disabled Weight Is Not “Freight”

Up to now disabled folk visiting the Acropolis had to dangerously traverse uneven pathways. Now this new project proposes paving the main paths. However, according to Greek Reporter some leading archaeologists have “blasted” the Ministry’s decision to reassess the paving of the pathways at the Acropolis.

Disabled visitors until now faced the embarrassing ordeal of having to use a freight elevator to get to the top. But now, a state-of-the-art slope lift will offer disabled people the same view over the monuments as was enjoyed by the ancient Greeks. If everything goes as planned, the new accessibility options will be ready on December 3rd 2020.

Now the beauty of Greece’s most iconic ancient site can be enjoyed by all. Credit: 9parusnikov / Adobe Stock

Now the beauty of Greece’s most iconic ancient site can be enjoyed by all. Credit: 9parusnikov / Adobe Stock

The Disabled Had Best Bring a Big Friend

The Parthenon temple on top of the Athenian Acropolis is one of the most recognizable buildings remaining from the ancient Greek world. A special elevator was installed back in 2004 ahead of the Athens Olympics to assist disabled visitors wanting to ascend to the site. However, even with this disabled access, the often steep pathways made this a hazard-loaded location for disabled people. So much so that Trip Advisor advises any disabled visitors to bring with them “a strong person to push them.”

An article on Greece.Com openly states that “ Greece was not designed for people in wheelchairs.” Furthermore, visitors suffering from “invisible disabilities” are advised to “carry documents attesting their disability status.” However, this situation extends far beyond any ideas you might have about ancient Greek builders lacking in compassion for the disabled. Long before the uneven streets and steps were created at the Acropolis, the natural topography of Greece was exceptionally mountainous and rocky.

The Acropolis stands high on a hill overlooking Athens, making it very hard for people with mobility issues to reach it. Credit: milosk50 / Adobe Stock

The Acropolis stands high on a hill overlooking Athens, making it very hard for people with mobility issues to reach it. Credit: milosk50 / Adobe Stock

Never Build a House, or City, on Sand

We’ve all heard the proverb about “never building a house on sand.” This advice holds true specifically because sand can’t be compacted and, as such, will never become a solid platform upon which to build a stable foundation. But the same also goes for the crumbling mountainous terrain of Greece. Over the centuries, miles of crooked sidewalks have been covered with more buckled paths, then attacked by the weight of hotels and “too many” cars, no matter what that number is. With no wheelchair access ramps and elevators that are too narrow for wheelchair access, even Greece.Com admits that Greece makes for “a miserable holiday for anyone who is dependent upon a wheelchair.”

Disabled Nightmares in Greece

Greece was the traditional home of the Olympics, geometry, medicine, philosophy and even the alarm clock, but nevertheless it seems to take an age for change to occur in modern Greece. Step by step, and thanks to new construction and restoration technologies that have become available, Athens is finally addressing the needs of the handicapped and the importance of disabled accessibility to its historic sites.

Cynics might say the Greek government was perhaps motivated to take these new measures after a constant stream of activism from the handicapped community in Greece in the wake of a brutal BBC report published in 2014 that claimed that “disabled children in Greece are being locked up in cages at a state-run care home.” At that time, Efi Bekou, the General Secretary in charge of welfare at the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, blamed this situation on the rest of the world saying “the economic crisis caused the Greek state to become bound to rules set by its lenders in the EU and IMF.”

Notwithstanding this shameful neglect of public responsibility and brazen show of ignoring advice not to bite the hand that feeds you, Greek ministers seem to have changed their tune towards the disabled. Well, at least towards those disabled people who can afford the entry fees to the tourist sites of ancient Greece and the importance of disabled accessibility to historic tourist destinations.

Top image: For the first time in its long history disabled accessibility has become a priority at the Athenian Acropolis in Greece and will be made completely accessible for disabled locals and tourists. Source: European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT)

By Ashley Cowie

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