úterý 5. srpna 2014

Accessibility of public transport in Czech Republic - still far from ideal.

One guy from the group Living with Muscular Dystrophy has asked me about the accessibility of public transport in Czech Republic. I started typing the answer and soon it became apparent the answer will be long. Like, really really long. So I have decided to make a blogpost from it, because it could show how it works in post communist country without Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Our country, the Czech Republic, had accepted some international law concerning rights of people with disabilities, however nothing as specific as ADA. According the law materials I have in my hand, in my humble opinion there should not be any bus, tram, underground/subway station and cars that is NOT accessible, however I am not a trained lawyer and I have hard time reading this legalese.
Our capital is called Prague. In the city center, there are 3 main metro (subway, underground) intersections. One is not accesible. There is going to be a big reconstruction of an important station (Národní Třída) and I was afraid the developer would "forget" about accessibility... they didn't.
Main tram intersection is not accesible. About 1/3 trams are low floor. To get safely to a tram when using wheelchair or with legs like mine, you need this combination: raised platform and low floor tram. On the Lazarská
 street, the platform is not raised, you are entering the tram directly from the road. Even though the low floor tram stops here, if you are a wheelchair user, person with disability that affects your legs, have a leg injury, or have a baby carriage you can't enter the tram safely or not at all. It is a really bad thing for incoming tourism from countries, where disabled people are treated with more respect which means they collectively seek happiness, tourism included.

On the picture is Brno city astronomical clock, black onyx obelisk that looks suspiciously phallic.
Now I move to my own city, Brno. Brno is a beautiful city full of paradoxes. Our elected city officials have put 600 000 USD to make a city astronomical clock, that does not show time.
The same approach is implemented in accessibility.
s possible to have dropped curb on one side of the pavement, but you can get from in on the other side, because the curb is not dropped. On Mendlovo náměstí, an important tram, bus, and trolleycar intersection, raised traffic island is needed. There was a reconstruction recently, and the investors have "forgotten" about accessibility again. Low entry trams without matching traffic islands are not really helpfull, and this approach to accessibility wastes money, because is not functional.
My own suburb where I do live, has lot of disabled citizens, every street has at least one parking place reserved for the disabled citizen living there. We have about 4 traffic islands missing, I hope if there will be reconstruction made, our city council officials would be able to learn from mistakes.

I would love to write about other cities, but even getting there is a tedious process for me. When I have traveled to Olomouc in the year 2013, I wrote to our rail company something like this: I am not a wheelchair user, but I would love and need to use your wheelchair lift, because, even as a biped I can't enter high floor train. The rail company arranged a lift for me, and I traveled to Olomouc, had a great night DJing and partying. Not drinking, lots of stairs in the clubs and I tend to fall down when I am drunk and happy. DJing does make me happy. So no drinks for me that night. And i travelled back, using wheelchair lift even I am a biped.

The picture is of me as a DJ in a party, feeling happy, and a guy with a Czech Flag waving at me.
This is not Olomouc however, this is an event with Bryan Kearney in Brno, 7Nebe Club.

Something has changed in the rail company, and now the rail company has a regulation that no one can stand on the wheelchair liftand therefore I am not allowed to travel by rail, and sitting in a bus makes my legs ache. I wonder how much money would they have to spend, to make every train station with a wheelchair lift equipped with one old hospital wheelchair, to satisfy both the regulation and the rights of disabled people. It surely is not extremely expensive. People with neuromuscular diseases and other condition might get into a trap, when they are too healthy for electric wheelchair, but their arms are too weak (e.g. the muscle tissue changed to something else, like ligament) to push off mechanical wheelchair, and so they prefer walking (with changed movement stereotype medically speaking, this is not walking).
And I am sure there is more people in this trap like me, who are looking for ways to get active and seek happiness, be it by traveling or entertaining others with their skills and so on. And it hurts the incoming tourism too.

I did not write this piece of blog to be pitied, or to yell at someone, or to be praised. I write this as a kind of feedback, what is missing, and what should be better. The principles of universal design, or accessibility, comprise of these:

Recognizing the features that could form barriers for some people
Thinking inclusively about the whole range of impairments
Reviewing everything from structure to smallest detail
Seeking feedback from users and learning from mistakes
I have hope, that the people responsible for this situation, the city officials or, the rail company executives can learn from the mistakes. And that the responsible people will not just follow regulation but create regulation that holds the opinions of disabled people in respect.

2 komentáře:

  1. Hey, very nice site. I came across this on Google, and I am stoked that I did. I will definitely be coming back here more often. Wish I could add to the conversation and bring a bit more to the table, but am just taking in as much info as I can at the moment. Thanks for sharing.
    Travel Wheelchairs

    Keep Posting:)

    1. I am sorry, this site is mostly in Czech. My main scope is normalizing disability to the point as in USA or in any ADA compliant country so I am trying to mostly show to the Czech public that we matter, so I apologize for writing mostly in my language. I will try to write something more in English now when I see I also do have more English speaking visitors :)