ATHENS – It’s no surprise to anyone who lives in Athens or has walked around the city and see cars parked even on sidewalks, at bus stops and so many block ramps for the disabled it’s finally drawn the attention of government officials.
Citizens’ Protection Minister Panagiotis Theodorikakos denounced what he called the “uncivilized” behavior of those who fail to respect people with disabilities but didn’t say if there would be any penalties, such as fines or towing their vehicles.
“Unfortunately, every month there are about 1,500 violations by fellow citizens who close the ramps for people with disabilities on the sidewalks and streets,” he said on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, adding it was “provocatively inhuman.”
He urged “everyone to end this situation very quickly so that the 1,500 (violations) become zero, so that our fellow human beings who need the ramps have the necessary freedom of movement in public space, as we all have.”
Many Greeks simply ignore traffic laws and get away with it and some streets have cars parked, partially on sidewalks on both sides – even on major roads – that makes it difficult to traffic both ways but nothing’s done about it.
In January, 2019 News a teenager in a wheelchair was stuck at a pedestrian crossing 45 minutes because an unlawfully-parked car was blocking access to the street set off social media anger that Greece isn’t friendly for the disabled.
In a Facebook post that went viral, the boy’s angry father said the car was parked in front of a wheelchair ramp, preventing his son from crossing until the vehicle was pushed away by other drivers and passersby.
Noted blogger Matt Barrett has written that, “ Greece was not designed for people in wheelchairs … even before they created the uneven streets and steps, the topography of the country was rocky and mountainous. Add the crooked sidewalks, too many cars, hotels with no wheelchair access ramps and elevators that are too narrow and you have the makings of a miserable holiday for anyone who is dependent upon a wheelchair.”
But he said then that the situation has gotten better in recent years with moves to make public surroundings friendlier for the disabled and those in wheelchairs although it’s still almost impossible in many cases for them to get around, as it is for those without disabilities who have to slide around or even climb over cars blocking sidewalks and streets.
In May 2017, an Australian tourist wrote on TripAdvisor how unlawfully parked cars that aren’t ticketed or towed made life miserable for people in wheelchairs or pushing baby strollers around.
He wrote that even after being assured his Piraeus hotel was wheelchair friendly that they were steps leading up to the entrance and the elevators too small for a wheelchair to fit in, although Greece’s 18-year-old Metro has big elevators.
“Many of the footpaths near the ferry terminals have ramps for wheelchairs at intersections but they are invariably blocked by parked cars, construction machinery etc so it is necessary to join the traffic and travel along the road,” he wrote.
Barrett said then that, “Little by little Athens is addressing the needs of the handicapped. A few years ago I might have told someone physically impaired to go elsewhere,” but that now, they can get around – unless cars are blocking them.