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
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
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.
the new light weight high-tech wheelchairs have small front caster wheels,
as small as 1 ½ 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.
9785 SW 145th Street
Miami, Florida 33176
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