Chairlift on the Rialto?

As I’m temporarily disabled, I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the plight of the disabled in Italy.

Of course in towns the evidence is everywhere, with new ramps provided with European money at every cross roads, but these ramps contrast sharply with the pot-holed cracked pavements which are certainly not easy to use with a wheelchair or crutches.

” Special Needs provision in Italy provides numerous challenges for visitors” is the laughable response on the internet. Of course I don’t expect them to modify ancient cobbled streets or install a chairlift on the Rialto bridge, but there are some areas where they could make a difference.

Think of Italian stations. Recently I’ve organised a rail journey necessitating a change of stations from King’s Cross to St Pancras. All I had to do was contact East Coast trains who will meet me at my carriage and escort me to the platform of my next station. Contrast this with my planned arrival at Venice Airport. Its website doesn’t even mention special needs, and Mestre station must be among the least accessible anywhere in the world. Apparently you can telephone for the key to a lift, but the website helpfully explains that it’s often out of order. That’s if you feel you can phone some office where if they bother to answer they probably won’t speak English. (Not a problem in my case, but it would be for most tourists.) With dark stairs and a deep subway, there’s simply no way I could travel from Mestre with a case and crutches.

Three cheers for Italian friends willing to meet me at the airport!

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