Venice likely to introduce wheelchair-friendly routes

 Monday, September 13, 2021 

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Venice

Despite being one of the most beautiful cities and most popular tourist destinations Venice has been nearly inaccessible for wheelchair users. The lagoon city has only limited number step-free areas, and the accessible waterbus service runs limited routes. However, authorities have finally decided to make Venice accessible to all with a wheelchair-friendly route from the city’s main entry point to the iconic St. Mark’s Square.

To start the project, the council has announced the construction of six ramps at heavily trafficked parts of the city: four on the route to St. Mark’s, and two at other crucial points for locals. Francesca Zaccariotto, Councillor for Public Works said in a statement that they are planning to build at least one route that permits people of all ages to go at least from Piazzale Roma [the gateway to the Italian mainland] to St. Mark’s without barriers.

Upon completion, it’ll be the first time Venice has been wheelchair accessible in its history since the city was founded in 421CE. The new route will not only be wheelchair accessible but also be built so that everyone can access it without problems, including blind people. Venice is reportedly doing interventions on bridges, making steps easier to climb, and adding non-slippery surfaces that make everything more navigable.

Zaccariotto mentioned that Venice is a tricky city to update because of strict rules around changing its cultural heritage. However, she mentioned that the city is aiming to become an example of accessibility for people with mobility issues. The latest moved have been largely appreciated y wheelchair users.

Five bridges will be equipped with ramps in the first stage of the project. The Ponte de la Croze, near Piazzale Roma, will be the first. It will link up with other bridges which already have ramps, allowing step-free access through the Santa Croce and San Polo areas to the vaporetto stop of San Toma. From there, people must take the vaporetto across the Grand Canal (free for wheelchair users) to San Samuele, where the route continues across the Ponte dei Frati, connecting the squares of Santo Stefano and Sant’Angelo.

The route will then go past the famous Fenice opera house and into St. Mark’s. One bridge near the Fenice, the Ponte Vecia Malvasia, will not have a ramp in this first round of construction. However, authorities are working on a solution which satisfies those in charge of heritage preservation, in order to make the route fully accessible. Steps leading from the Campo della Misericordia square to the Fondamenta della Misericordia, a nightlife hub, will also get a ramp.

Another will go on Giudecca Island, just off the Palanca vaporetto stop, a residential area increasingly popular with visitors. For the past six years, temporary ramps have been installed in the city for the annual marathon that have been left for most of the year in places such as the Zattere waterfront in the Dorsoduro district, and on the Riva degli Schiavoni, the world-famous waterfront outside St. Mark’s. The plans for the new bridges will be passed by the executive, and then will be put out for tender. The idea is to complete the project within months.

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