Accessible beaches and bathe service in Barcelona

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During the last years, Barcelona has worked in order to make accessible its beaches. A service of support to bathe is addressed to people with reduced mobility who need help to access the water.

This project results of the collaboration between the Institut Municipal de Persones amb Discapacitat (IMD) and the Institut Municipal de Parcs i Jardins, responsible for the city’s coastline. It also counts with the collaboration of the Residents’ Associations and the volunteers of the Red Cross.

The project entails citizen’s participation together with different municipal departments and organizations. Citizen’s participation includes residents from la Barceloneta and from Sant Martí de Provençals district.
Municipal departments and other organizations include the following: Institut Municipal de Parcs i Jardins, Institut Municipal de Persones amb Discapacitat, Social Welfare Department, Red Cross, Diputació de Barcelona and the districts of Ciutat Vella and Sant Martí.

The service of support to bathe is addressed to people with reduced mobility who need help to access the water. 234 people have used the service in 2005 and 1395 interventions have been done, with the help of 140 volunteers. This numbers change from one year to the other depending on many circumstances such as the state of the sand, the water or atmospheric conditions.

The project aims at reaching a fully accessible public space, in order to have a city without barriers. It is based on the Law 20/1991, 25th of November, on the promotion of accessibility and suppression of architectural barriers, and on the Municipal Actuation Plan 2004-2007.

The service of support to bathe is a part of a bigger project of  accessible beaches. These beaches can be divided in two groups:
1. accessible beaches with adapted public transport, car park zone with accessible itineraries, visual information, adapted WC, wood ramps from the sand to the water and adapted showers;
2. accessible beaches with, in addition to these facilities, a service of support to bathe, changing rooms, amphibian chairs, elevator, umbrella, life jackets and volunteers.

The service of support to bathe is carried out for 91 days or 819 hours along the beach season and requires the collaboration of many volunteers from the Red Cross.

Disabled people were involved in the different phases of the process : debate, proposals and follow-up phase. The users evaluate the service received via a questionnaire distributed by the Red Cross technicians and the volunteers.

Different tools are used to evaluate the project:
- the Red Cross technicians take notes when providing the service;
- the IMD, through its Directive Commission, gathers all the opinions and suggestions;
- the users fill a form with their opinions and proposals.

History of the activity :
1996 disabled people propose ask the IMD to make the beaches accessible;
1997 installation of wood ramps to the water on Nova Icària and Sant Sebastià beaches, as well as adapted toilets, chairs under the showers, non sliding paving and reserved car park places;
1998 Nova Icària counts with volunteers in the weekends and the number of adapted beaches increases to 6;
1999 Sant Sebastià counts with volunteers in the weekends;
2000 Nova Icària counts with changing rooms;
2001 installation of amphibian chairs;
2002 adapted toilets and one elevator crane are installed;
2003 Sant Sebastià counts with changing rooms. The support to bathe service is open every day on both beaches. A technician is responsible for managing the service on each beach.
2004 installation of a second elevator crane in Sant Sebastià beach as well as two amphibian chairs;
2005 extension of the service to the hole summer season.

This project implies the active collaboration of disabled people, of volunteers and of several municipal departments.
It normalizes the presence of the disabled in public places and it extends their recreational possibilities.
It promotes the respect for the diversity and reduces inequalities. It establishes a meeting point, a place to share experiences between citizens.