Greece is Making Beaches More Accessible

High tech wheelchair-friendly ramps provide access to the sea.

May 18, 2023


Inclusion, Travel
Greece is Making Beaches More Accessible | High tech wheelchair-friendly ramps provide access to the sea.

Greece is full of beautiful beaches on the Mediterranean Sea. With the weather getting warmer, more and more people will be spending time on the sand and in the water.

Now, the government in Greece, is working on making beaches much more accessible to people with mobility issues, according to The Smithsonian Magazine. Greece is installing remote-controlled wheelchair ramps to provide sea access.

In addition to the ramps, restroom, changing facilities, snack bars, walkways and parking will be improved for better accessibility. The plan is to make the improvements to 287 beaches, work has been completed on 147,  Vassilis Kikilias, Greece’s tourism minister, announced the plan at a press conference in March, 2023.

“Equal access to the sea is an inalienable human right,” he said. “People with disabilities and people with limited mobility are given the opportunity to participate in beach activities with family and friends, enhancing the quality of life for everyone.” 

The government designed a website with information and a map showing which beaches are fully accessible.

Seatrac Autonomous Sea Access
The Seatrac autonomous sea access device, made by a Greek company called TOBEA.  consist of solar-powered wheelchair-friendly ramps and  sliding chairs that allow users to transfer themselves into the chair and drive themselves into the water, reported The Washington Post. Once in the sea, the user can lift themselves out of the chair, swim, and then return. The device is available at the beach or can be delivered to hotels if ordered in advance.

The ramps and chairs allow people with limited mobility to bypass the sand that is hard to navigate and go into the sea independently without a person helping them.

“Seatrac does not provide only independent access to the sea. It provides dignity and independence to people with mobility issues that want to enjoy swimming,” Ignatios Fotiou, an aerospace engineer and one of the Greek inventors of the device told The Washington Post. “They can choose where to go and ask their friends to join them, not the other way around.”

The idea came from a conversation Fotiou had with a friend who is a wheelchair user, who said that he disliked being carried into the sea “like a sack of potatoes.” Fotiou wanted to find a way for wheelchair users to access the sea independently.

TOBEA was founded in 2012 and originally installed the devices at nine beaches in Greece. In 2022, the company installed 180 in Greece and installed units in Cyprus, Italy and Latvia. That year, there were more than 40,000 users. “Seatrac is not just a device,” Fotiou said. “It is a holistic solution.”

Beyond Beaches
Beach accessibility is just one way that Greece is making the country more accessible. This is not an easy task because the country was not designed for people in wheelchairs, according to Greek Reporter. There are uneven streets with steps in the country which is rocky and mountainous. Ancient monuments are practically inaccessible.

The country began to address this issue since Greece hosted the Olympics in Athens in 2004. In 2019, the Greek government took steps to make tourist sites accessible by requiring all passenger ships and ferries to be manageable for people with mobility issues, reported The Washington Post.

Paved pathways and a wheelchair-friendly elevator were installed at the Acropolis in 2020, despite opposition from archaeologists that said the site would be harmed by the change. “Now we can say that any disabled person in the world who wants to visit the Acropolis can do so,” Yiannis Vardakastanis, president of the Confederation of Disabled People, told Greek Reporter.

Today, with increased accessibility to the sea, Greece is improving the lives of people with disabilities and allowing them to live more independent, happier and fulling lives.

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Bonnie has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.