Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Gondolas4All: Gondola rides in Venice accessible to all

Helping others bypass architectural barriers in Venice

Those who have visited Venice, or other historical centers throughout Italy, know how difficult it can be to get around town. Lugging suitcases and pulling strollers over bridges or perhaps touring about in a wheelchair can be trying, if not impossible.  Yet, to have access to and freely move about is a right for all, and for persons with disabilities it’s a right sanctioned by the United Nations Organization.

Still, when a person with disabilities dreams about riding in a gondola the realization of that desire is difficult and at times out of the question. Like all people who fall for Venice’s mystery and charm, those whose mobility requires the aid of a wheelchair yearn to enjoy the beauty of the Serenissma as seen from the symbol of this most romantic and rare city, too. But to have that experience they must be carried in their wheelchairs from a pier to a bobbing gondola by two or more gondoliers. A situation that’s not always possible, and when it is, there are obvious risks involved.

So, sensitive to the needs of these special guests, Alessandro Dalla Pietà and Enrico Greifenberg, proud seasoned gondoliers who work at the Traghetto Ferrovia gondola station, came up with a wonderful solution which will make gondola rides through their city’s historical canals accessible to everyone, including wheelchair users. In 2012 they shared that solution with the Venice Chapter of UILDM (Italian Union for the Fight against Muscular Dystrophy). The idea to build an automated footboard which will safely board a person with his or her own wheelchair directly from a special floating pier into the gondola pleased the UILDM Chapter so much that they collaborated by
participating in further developing the idea from a technical standpoint. In addition, they shared the efforts by researching and financing the initial work, gathering funds together with the gondoliers, and by economically sustaining the creation of the website Gondolas4All . The Veneto Region approved the project and committed 50,000 euros, and V4A-Village4All—accessible tourism—joined this unique project, too. To further qualify the project, twenty-one gondoliers from the Ferrovia Traghetto attended and passed the Handling, Transporting, and Relating with People with Disabilities training course which was organized by the Venice Chapter of UILDM.

Now, the wheelchair accessible floating pier is waiting to be built at the gondola station near Piazzale Roma, the principle entrance to Venice from the mainland, and begin service in 2015.  

HOWEVER, funds collected to date aren’t sufficient to complete the project. Another 56,000 euros are needed.

Hopeful that this important project will see its fruition, Gondolas4All has turned to the public via CROWDFUNDING. Gondolas4All 

All funds collected will be used for the development and maintenance of this important project. For the cost of an espresso or a glass of prosecco, we can all be part of this Venetian journey. A moment of your time and a small contribution will assist others in making their otherwise impossible dream come true. 

Please, click on this link Gondolas4All Video and watch the cheerful video directed by Aldo Bisacco. Then, if you will, take a minute and donate what you can.  


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