A little look at Spain

Time is flying, it's already October and only a few days until we're back off to Belgium, how exciting! I thought the blog was pretty quite so I wanted to recap and rethink about our recent family visit to Spain in terms of access. The point was raised during a phone interview I did recently for a research paper on accessible travel that accessibility in Spain can sometimes be compromised, so let's talk about that.

I've been massively fortunate this year, not only did we have our huge Eurotrip where we visited Spain (Zaragoza and Barcelona) but also we spent 10 days near to Santander in August with family. Of course, we weren't there to critique it for access but it's always at the forefront of my mind. We stayed in a beautiful house, supposedly wheelchair accessible but it didn't quite appear as the website showed- always be prepared for this anywhere that you travel!

As with our problem in Barcelona, we again had to remove the bathroom door to gain access. My electric wheelchair of standard width could not enter the bathroom at all but my shower and commode chair could just squeeze in, with a little wiggle and a lot of effort taking the door off its hinges. And the family laugh that we carry a tool kit with us, but it always comes in handy!

To me, accessibility in Spain feels like an afterthought. I like Spain a lot, and would love to return again and again, but for me it doesn't feel so enjoyable or relaxing as other countries. I've discussed before about the poor ramp situations that I've come across, where they block them with trees or end them with a step, or they're just incredibly and dangerously steep, but this should not be the case in 2014. During the family holiday, it took a lot more effort to find accessible restaurants, accessible pathways and dropped curbs than we would have liked to have hoped. And where they were "accessible", they were by no means regulatory or safe.

I really don't want to sit here badmouthing Spain because it's a beautiful country with beautiful food (intact, my absolute favourite food but I won't go into that right now!) and I know that we will absolutely visit again. I'm not sure if it was just because we were in quite a rural area or not, but during our time in both Zaragoza and Barcelona I felt the same. Cities such as these have such a rich history and they deserve to be explored by everyone, but by cleverly adapting and evolving the way in which we make them wheelchair friendly, not by throwing some concrete against a step to make a steep incline and then deeming it accessible.

I'll leave you with this picture, which I think totally sums up my thoughts on the attitude towards accessibility in Spain. Here's a beach wheelchair, parked up behind the disabled parking spaces by a small, rural beach in Cantabria. This is fantastic since they are still fairly rare in the rural beaches of South West England, so to find it here was a real treat! But its weather beaten from lack of care, covered in cigarette burns and the wheels are so it's not very safe nor comfortable. A small shed or roof would protect this from being damaged, but this chair will not be safe come spring 2015.