Friday, September 4, 2009

Wheelchair Users in Barcelona

After being in contact with 2 wheelchair users these last two weeks, I found some interesting reflections from our conversations, and felt it merited a mention on the blog. I'm also (as always) open to comments and contributions from other wheelchair users who may have visited the city and have anything to add.

Barcelona Sights - International Wheelchair SymbolThe general takeaway from both users was that Barcelona is a fairly easy city to visit and the wheelchair users didn't miss out on the majority of sights the city has to offer. Anyone who's been here knows that Barcelona is slightly on a gradient - flanked by Montjüic mountain to the left, Tibidabo at the back, and the Mediterranean sea at the bottom. It's a haven for skateboarders (although perhaps more due to the Police tolerance in comparison to countries such as the USA!) and the many bike lanes and success of the city's Bicing venture, means that getting around on two wheels is not that much of a headache.

Public transport is a huge influence on any persons visit to a new destination, especially a city - none more so than those with a wheelchair. Well, both my contacts were staying very central and were extremely happy to see the newly installed lifts on the metro at Liceu on Las Ramblas, as well as the Purple Line (Line 2) being the only line at the moment with lifts from street level to the platforms. On the occasions where there was not a lift, the accompanying people were able to help up escalators or steps - although they mentioned that staff also seemed keen to help on one occasion. One group also used the buses in town, and although they had to wait for the next bus, when it arrived it had lowered suspension and was perfect for the wheelchair user to board.

Wheelchair Access Funicular Montjüic - Barcelona Sights

Obviously, some of the bigger attractions were a gamble in not knowing if things would work, but as one family were travelling with children, they wanted to make the most of the trip, so opted for the Cable Cars up on Montjüic. The good news is that the Funicular at Parallel metro station is perfectly adaptable for those in a wheelchair. I would have guessed as much, as I have used the Funicular with a pushchair on various occasions. However, one point worth mentioning is that in order to be at the front with little or no steps when you arrive to the top, you need to ensure you board the very end carriage down in Parallel - this way you save steps when the funicular train arrives at the top. In the image above, you would go right to the end where the publicity board is - meaning at the top you'd have maybe one step to the lift.

View from Miramar Cable Car towards Barceloneta - Barcelona Sights Another bonus was that the Montjüic Cable Car was also wheelchair accessible, and I'm such a big fan of the cable car, so I was very pleased. I had suspected as much, after seeing how you can have a picnic in the sky there - if they can get a table in there, a wheelchair should be no problem, right?!

Steps to Miramar Cable car - Barcelona sightsA shame that the same couldn't be said for the Cable Car at Miramar which goes over the water and cruise ships towards Barceloneta beach. Whilst there is a lift at the Barceloneta end, meaning it's possible to get up and down from street level to the elevated platform at the destination at Miramar, there is no lift and a fairly steep starcase back up to street level.

Barcelona's beaches are easily accessible for those in a wheelchair, with ramps along the Olympic Village beaches and the wooden boardwalks (there is one just near the spider's web climbing frame which reaches right down to the shore) and Barceloneta again having a very slight gradient down to the beach area - both very pleasing, especially given the heat the past couple of weeks!

Barceloneta Beach - Barcelona sights

One of the groups wanted to visit the Camp Nou for a football game and despite furious googling and contact through various re-selling websites, no-one was able to find wheelchair accessible tickets for the first game of the season again Sporting last Monday. Two of our ventured trekkers made their way up to the stadium and were told that there WERE tickets available for wheelchair access, but decided against going to the match due to the lateness of the game and the possible nightmare of getting home afterwards. This to me was a shame, as it's a great stadium to visit, and had tickets been booked in advance, a more strategic plan could have been organised with perhaps a taxi pick up after the game to avoid the crowds, etc. I think there should be easier information available on the website (there was a telephone number, but only Spanish-speaking operators).

Park Güell Plaça  - Barcelona SightsThe only possible gripe, and I've saved this till last purely because it didn't take a shine off either holiday was Park Güell. On my recommendation, one group took a taxi up to Park Güell, and whilst they were (at a push - no pun intended) able to visit the walkways and paths in and around the entrance to the park, there was no direct way to access the main plaça with the tiled benches. I was fairly surprised at this and backtracked in my head the various routes you could access the plaça from but also came up with a blank.

Overall, though, both groups had a fantastic time, and I thank them for the input in helping me write this post!

Looking for accommodation this Autumn? Try apartments for rent in Barcelona as a great alternative to a hotel.


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