Getting around Barcelona with a disability
The Catalan capital underwent a major transformation concerning the infrastructure and urban planning during the nineties, mainly due to the celebration of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 1992. However, rather than stopping there, Barcelona continued to adapt the city to its disabled visitors and is now considered one of the most accessible tourist destinations in Europe. Various travel agencies in the Catalan capital specialise in providing information for people with a disability. To achieve this, they offer the best accessible hotels, activities and adapted transport. Moreover, the public transport network is fully accessible and several beaches, one of the main attractions in Barcelona, also offer assisted bathing services for disabled people who cannot access the water independently.
Barcelona (CNA).- The Catalan capital is widely considered one of the most accessible tourist destinations in Europe. Various travel agencies in Barcelona specialise in providing information for people with a disability. To achieve this, they offer the best accessible hotels, activities and adapted transport. Public transport is another field with outstanding standards for disabled users, since all metro stations that have been recently built or refurbished are fully accessible. The Metropolitan Transport of Barcelona (TMB) keeps improving the public transport system of Barcelona and currently has a 100% accessible bus fleet. To complete all this offer, the beaches of Barceloneta and Nova Icaria as well as the Forum bathing area offer assisted bathing services for disabled people who cannot access the water independently.
In 1987, the city was granted the right to hold the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 1992. This was a unique opportunity for Barcelona to improve the position and reputation of the city as it gave equal status to the Paralympics and the Olympics, which had never before been held together. The city underwent a major transformation concerning the infrastructure and urban planning during the nineties.
The stadiums and other facilities designed for the Games themselves were built in accordance to the required standards to make them accessible for people with a disability. There was also a great amount of information available regarding accessibility to 57,000 places around the city.
After the Games, Barcelona continued to improve access for everyone. For example, an accessibility plan from 1995 to 2004 included that pavements and squares would be adapted to wheelchair users and persons with other disabilities.
Various travel agencies in Barcelona specialise in providing information for people with a disability. Barcelona Zero Limits is one of the travel agencies that is specialised in this inclusive tourism. Their goal is to make Barcelona accessible for everyone and they want to promote inclusive tourism in Barcelona by contributing to the elimination of the barriers that people with mobility problems face in their daily lives and their journeys.
They want to achieve this by offering the best accessible hotels, activities and adapted transport. All of the recommendations have been tested. Although they are specialised in tourism for people with mobility problems, their activities can be joined by everyone. The creator of Barcelona Zero Limits, Julià Montero, stated that they also want to launch this project internationally with projects in Korea and Japan.
Since 1992, all metro stations that are newly built or refurbished are fully accessible. The Metropolitan Transport of Barcelona (TMB) keeps improving the public transport system of Barcelona. TMB now has a 100% accessible bus fleet, and they have more raised, adapted bus stops to make the stops accessible to all people. Many of the vehicles from the Bus Tùristic (tourist bus) fleet are also adapted with ramps.
Although the metro was slowly developed in the beginning, the Barcelona metro network is now wheelchair adapted (except in 15 of a total of 156 stations), there are voice-guided ticket vending machines throughout the network, there are tactile paving strips for the blind in many stations and door closure warning lights on an increasing number of trains. Since 2012, there has also been a relief version of the metro network and a metro guide in Braille at the Punt TMB information and customer service centres.
Furthermore, TMB has developed technological support tools for the handicapped. The latest project to improve accessibility is a mobile app that is developed by TMB, ONCE and Vodafone. This app guides people that are visually impaired with radio frequency beacons in metro stations and at bus stops.
Turisme de Barcelona
To ensure that accessibility measures continue to be taken, the organisation Turisme de Barcelona provides tourists of Barcelona with a great amount of information concerning accessibility for disabled people. The staff working at the tourist information offices have been trained concerning accessibility and customer service.
The organisation wants to raise awareness among professionals in the tourist industry of Barcelona about the importance of this type of tourism. They are also involved in a city project that evaluates the accessibility of more than 400 tourist services and venues (hotels, congress palaces, beaches, parks, museums and restaurants).
In 2015, they produced a video entitled ‘Easy Barcelona in collaboration with the Municipal Institute for Disabled Persons’ that promotes Barcelona as an accessible tourist destination. They also promote their own projects. One of the current projects are the walking tours through the Gotic area. The organisation offers a route that is adapted to the needs of people with reduced mobility.
The beach of Barcelona is 4.5 kilometres long and all city beaches are barrier-free areas. The beaches of Barceloneta and Nova Icaria as well as the Forum bathing area offer assisted bathing services for disabled people who cannot access the water independently. To help these people to get in and out of the water, there is a crane for people who need to transfer from their wheelchair to the floating wheelchair. The accessible beaches with assisted bathing services are the result of a collaboration between the Municipal Institute for Disabled Persons and the Municipal Parks and Gardens Institute, and has the support of Red Cross volunteers.
Olympic Ring on Montjuïc
On top of the Montjuïc Mountain, there is the Olympic Ring, which was the centre of the Olympic Games with the Olympic Stadium. The paths and areas in the Olympic Ring are wide, which provide wheelchair users with sufficient space. The Ring is set out on different levels and there are multiple ramps and staircases that connect the different points.
Also the stadium has an accessible entrance at street level (on the Avinguda de l'Estadi), which provides unrestricted access for people with reduced mobility. During the tour of the stadium, people can go the bar-restaurant, which is fully accessible. The tables are adapted to the correct height and dimensions for wheelchair users.
Julià Montero stated that thanks to the changes provoked by the Olympic Games, Barcelona is now referred to as one of the most accessible cities in the world. She also highlighted that the next step that the city of Barcelona needs to take in order to further improve accessibility is to work on changing the mentality of local citizens, adding that a mobility culture has to be created with respect for people with disabilities.