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Athens for the Disabled

Helpful Information for Wheelchair Users
from an Athens 2004 Paralympic Athlete

Hi Matt,

I am writing from the Athletes Village in Athens which is now occupied by Paralympic Athletes. 

Ever since I was selected to the US Paralympic Team I have been referring to your Athens Survival Guide to prepare for this trip.  It has been wonderfully informative about the both the infrastructure and culture of Athens.  As a wheelchair user I need as much specific information as I can gather in order to plan ways to overcome obstacles I might encounter. Your Guide has been a great help in this area.

I have been deep in competition and have not had much opportunity to tour much of Athens yet.  I am a triple amputee wheelchair track athlete. I push the 800m, 1500m and 5000m in a racing wheelchair with one arm.  I am looking forward to some free time starting this weekend to see more of Athens.

I did get to go to the Acropolis and would like to offer some tips for wheelchair users.  The Acropolis Museum operates a wheelchair lift on the North face of the Acropolis.  The first object is to get to the lift.  From the street level there is steep pedestrian path paved with rough marble tiles with wide grout spaces.  The path is about 300 meters long and a very difficult push in a wheelchair.  I recommend a taxi ride to the top of the pedestrian path to the green gate where wheelchair access begins.  Taxi drivers are reluctant to drive on this path but the Museum allows and encourages this for disabled patrons.  At this point wheelchair users will be approached by very helpful museum lift operators. A sign points to the wheelchair gate which is along the red compacted earth path just to the left of the main ambulatory access.  There is a slight drop off the marble path to the red earth path. The lift operators will assist wheelchairs through
the green wrought iron gate then up the steep earthen path for about 200 meters to the lift.

The lift is actually two devices.  First is a stair climbing platform that rides the handrails mounted on a series of concrete stairs.  The stair
climber traverses three flights of stairs to a platform where the vertical lift awaits. The stair climber is slow and can only take one wheelchair at a time.  If there are other wheelchair users waiting it becomes a bottle neck. I do not know what normal wheelchair traffic is like at the Acropolis.  With 3.837 Paralympic athletes in Athens and half of those using wheelchairs the line for the lift becomes quite long.  By 11:00 AM a dozen wheelchairs require a 2 hour wait. I learned to go early. The vertical lift is a cage that ascends about 20 meters on rails bolted into the rock face of the Acropolis.  It can carry two wheelchairs plus the attendant. It looks scary but it is quite safe.

At the top of the lift the wonders of the Acropolis lie before you.  Before you descend the ramp from the lift platform, look back at the Ancient Agora below.  There is a rough concrete wheelchair path from the lift to the museum on the opposite side.  There is another chair lift to carry wheelchairs down to the underground museum level.   There is also a wheelchair accessible water closet at the museum level.  Stray off the concrete path if you can.  The rough rock outcroppings are somewhat leveled by spread gravel.  It is a difficult push but well worth the effort.  Just think of the ancient Athenians who trod these same outcrops 3,000 years ago. Try to make it to the wall on the opposite side from the lift to see the Theater of Dionysious, and the Roman Theater of Herod Atticus just below and the Temple of Zeus in the distance.

Buses and subways are a great way for wheelchairs to travel in Athens.  Most buses kneel to extend wheelchair ramps.  The subway is completely accessible.  A economical way to catch a taxi to the Acropolis is to exit the subway at the Syntagma Metro Station.  From the elevator cross Syntagma Square and the adjacent street to the ever present line of taxis. A taxi from Syntagma Square to the Acropolis is only 3 Euros.  From the Athletes Village a taxi cost 25 Euros. 

Many of the new light weight high-tech wheelchairs have small front caster wheels, as small as 1 inches in diameter. These will catch very easily on the rough pavements in Athens and especially at the Acropolis. When the catch they cause the wheelchair to flip forward dumping the occupant.  Use larger caster wheels, at least 3 inches in diameter.

I hope this information is useful to you.   Again thank you for your guide.
It has been indispensable.    

Ted Bridis
9785 SW 145th Street
Miami, Florida 33176

More Useful Information

See my page on the healing waters of Lake Vouliagmeni
The lake is open year round. In the winter season the hours are from 8am to 5pm. In the summer from 6:30am to 8pm. For more information you can call them at 210 896-2237, 896-2238, 896-2239 or Fax 896-2351

See Also:
Greece for the Disabled
Spas of Lesvos
Spas of Edipsos
George the Famous Taxi Driver
Beaches of Athens
Information for Wheel Chair Users
Sirens Resort for the Physically Disabled
Hotels in Athens/Vouliagmeni

  

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