Disabled Or Comfort?

disabled man«Love, union and collaboration can move planets. Let’s see if between us all we can achieve an island without any boundaries», Leda Giordano, manager of the Nautilus Lanzarote Art & Biosphere Bungalows, tells me. Her establishment has 45 adapted bungalows, barrier free bathrooms, ramps everywhere and disabled guests can even submerge themselves in the swimming pool without anything to fear or hide. Accessibility, she says, doesn’t mean hotels can’t be nice, and without looking like «real hospitals with bad odors», as she has seen elsewhere. And, she adds, for people with their full capacities (if any truly exist because, this writer at least, isn’t yet capable of gliding to the moon) her Lanzarotean Nautilus has a collection of artwork thorough every corner of the garden. Even outside of their gardens, in the public garden of Puerto del Carmen, where the business is located.

Giordano hoists the blue flag of another less publicized beach —that of the Association of People with Reduced Mobility of Palante—, through a document signed by Estrella Nicolás. This document highlights the scarcity of properly adapted hotels in Spain, «it would be interesting that someone addressed the issue of complete accessibility on the premises of hotels, from the dining room to the swimming pool. Transportation is a fundamental matter, as is that restaurants, pubs or any stores abide to the regulations. The priority is that when making these places universally accessible, it is done serious and responsibly, in such way that later we don’t come across any surprise (trick-ramps…) that in the end don’t provide solutions and have created a significant expense.»

The document even reflects about access in Lanzarote to the beach fronts as well as «the possibility to move freely through areas such as Puerto del Carmen, where there is a more… therapeutic temperature.» And she continues, «Achieving the most independence at natural (beaches) and recreational environments like these is essential and rightful, without it generating any environmental impact and caring for their sustainability.»

Another document, submitted by Miguel Angel Oribe, asks island authorities for wheelchair access to diverse tourist locations. «It would be appropriate to review tourist spots around the island such as Mirador del Rio, the Jameos del Agua or the Jardín del Cactus”, the sender points out, «in order to create a smooth path at all of them with a width of approximately 1.10m so that handicapped people can visit them comfortably.»

Comfort, accessibility, adaptation… I feel that my opposite opinion about this accessibility frenzy is not all politically correct as is expected of me.

The past 28 years I’ve been including information regarding accessibility at hotels, subject of my weekly critiques in El País. And I believe that they have achieved more for the disabled community than some people who now a days represent themselves as the redeemers of the physically impaired. But I don’t think it’s sensible to expect all human beings to reach the same locations.

I’ll say it out loud: I am disabled. During my summer excursions through the mountains I suffer so much that I’ve convinced myself that I’ll never be able to climb the Everest. I am disabled, a man physically limited of achieving many goals I wish I could endeavor. Nevertheless I am not unhappy. I would have been thrilled to wear wings such as the ill-fated BASE jumper and chief Darío Barrio did back in his time. Or have gills that would allow me to enjoy the bottom of the sea without keeping track of the air left in my tank, ability that we’ll all have thanks to technology in 20 or 30 years, perhaps. Or be a spider and weave a thread that lifts me up into the stratosphere. But I am happy despite my spinal, pulmonary and wingless conditions.

So I don’t intend on reaching every place at the expense of devaluating them or breaking their mystical unattainability. I do not agree with building a stairway to heaven, even though I idolize Led Zeppelin. Not even elevating a cable car to the summit of the Aconcagua. Nor connecting electricity to the Wax Room atop the Roc del Maure. Or building a road up to Bulnes, in the Picos de Europa.

Neither am I in favor of having comfort whatever be the cost, of the improper concept that history, authenticity and the architectural value of a medieval castle should be sacrificed for accessibility by installing an elevator in order to access its battlements, as its been done at more than one tourist location. Stairs for who can climb them. The summit for who can withstand the breathing. The truth for who hates lies.

Maybe we can’t reach the highest peak, as Edmund Hillary did, but it is there and that bestows on it a unique worthiness.

I celebrate that the Spanish hotel industry is becoming more considerate towards people no matter what their conditions are. Sustainable help should be extended to them as long as the character or the spirit of the location goes untouched. And I will continue to inform my readers about the accessibility situation of the hotels I recommend. But I will never support a plan of architectural destruction in order to become accessible, nor regulations that demand a ramp be placed when the wall invites us to crawl it.

Let’s be disabled to live comfortably no matter the cost.

Fernando Gallardo |

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