Mercedes González Amade
HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban media, particularly the TV, often speaks of the architectural barriers that hinder the movement of disabled people around the city and insists on the need to eliminate them as soon as possible.
Though the message is aimed at all institutions and society in general, not all barriers around the city are given the same priority – and I speak from experience.
Recently, I went out to the Vedado district of the capital. A proud resident of Havana, I was pleased to see that the streets were devoid of potholes and that all sidewalks were equipped with wheelchair ramps. What I don’t understand is why, in Marianao (where I live), the only places you come across wheelchair ramps are at health institutions.
For instance: when I go to the cybercafé at the post-office, I have to become an acrobat just to get to the computer. I have to walk up a badly-cast curb (something they improvised so people don’t get mud on their shoes when it rains) and make a huge physical effort to go up four high, poorly-made steps.
Bank branches where elderly people and the disabled withdraw money have no wheelchair ramps, only steps. The sidewalks are full of potholes, forcing one to use the street, which is dangerous, given the many vehicles that drive by and the carelessness of some drivers.
I am speaking not only on behalf of disabled persons, but for the elderly as well. It’s true that not everything can be solved as quickly as one would want and that Vedado is the heart of the city. What I don’t understand is the huge contrasts we come across in the same city.
I am not asking for wheelchair ramps to be set up at every sidewalk in my neighborhood. I am only saying these should be installed at some of the busier avenues and public places where people must go for one reason or another.