Let’s face it, unless you are directly confronted with a disability, accessible tourism won’t mean much to you. It didn’t mean much to me until someone opened my eyes and made me see an amazing side of Malaga.
Disability and travel: a few facts
The World Health Organization estimates that 15% of the global population, that’s roughly 1 billion people, live with some form of disability. Just in the EU, 1 in 6 people has a disability that ranges from mild to severe. This means that millions of people cannot fully and equally enjoy recreation, community, or social resources; including travel.
The population is aging quickly. Therefore the number of senior travelers in only going to rise. As a matter of fact, by 2050, up to 22% of the total population will be over 60. This means that most of us may develop some form of disability. Sooner or later, we will all have specific access requirements to tourist infrastructures, services, and products. Taking town environmental and attitudinal barriers has become a priority.
Photo credit Reduced Mobility Rights
Malaga: accessible tourism at its best
Spain as a whole has progressively prepared for accessible tourism. Increasingly, the country takes into account the diversity of the human condition in terms of age, mobility, sensory, and intellectual impairments. As a recent example, the Prado Museum in Madrid launched an innovative project to create 3-D copies of selected paintings oriented to persons with visual impairments. They can touch these images with their hands allowing a new perspective. This allows blind people, or persons with low vision, to enjoy three-dimensional works of art by mentally recreating the works as a whole; unthinkable only a few years back.
In Malaga, enormous efforts are being made to consciously adapt to the needs of people with disabilities. The city is eliminating barriers, providing access to cultural and natural resources, and creating standards for transport, building, and urban planning.
As such the majority of monuments, restaurants, streets, and beaches have been adapted for people with disabilities. The goal is simple yet complicated: everyone should be able to enjoy their visit without facing accessibility problems. Tourism should be accessible to all; nothing more, nothing less.
“Malaga Accessible” municipal program
Over the last few years, a municipal initiative called “Malaga Accessible” has positioned Malaga as a pioneer for welcoming those with reduced mobility and has since received many awards for its accessibility.
While this is very much a work-in-progress, the results are quite impressive. Malaga has already received a special mention from the “Access City Award” initiative which recognizes a city’s willingness, capability, and efforts to ensure accessibility. This guarantees equal access to fundamental rights and improves the quality of life of its population. Everybody – regardless of age, mobility or ability – should have equal access to all the resources and pleasures cities have to offer.
This year for instance, the town offers “adapted visits” to 13 main attractions. Visits are done in sign language, with information in Braille and adapted to the needs of each visitor. They include the main museums, the Cathedral, the Botanical Garden, the English Cemetery etc. Visitors can also receive assistance during the famous “Noche en Blanco”, a night in May where art is free for all. Since 2010, nearly 5000 visitors with special needs have taken advantage of this great initiative.
You can book those ‘adapted visits’ by calling: +34 951 92 83 64 and +34 951 92 83 66 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. For more information on those tours, click here
Click here for a map of disabled parking spaces and click here for a map of audible pedestrian traffic signals.
Meet Mick and Karen Oxley
Mick and Karen are from the picturesque Northumberland fishing port of Craster, England.
Although Mick had become disabled a few years back, it certainly did not stop him from continuing his passion for sports. He simply traded his bicycle for a wheelchair but his level of energy is the same.
Why did they make Malaga their home away from home when it comes to holidays? One of the main reasons is precisely because of the level of accessibility of the city.
They consider Malaga one of the best city they have visited when it comes to accessible tourism. The entire city centre is now entirely pedestrian. Soft pavement has replaced hard to navigate cobblestones. Dropped curbs are everywhere for wheelchair access and most importantly, the seafront promenade is accessible during literally hundreds of kilometers. Mick’s dream is to wheel around the entire Andalusian coastline in a wheelchair! Yes, that’s 1000 kilometers! Until then they will continue to enjoy long walks by the sea without having to worry about irregular surfaces that impede wheelchair movement.
Both are art lovers and they have visited every single museum the city has to offer, on numerous occasions. Hopefully, one day, the city will return the favor and will host one of Mick’s work of art which you can enjoy here.
Mick and Karen have currently rented Solaga’s apartment “Felix Sáenz” and are coming back in the fall to stay in apartment “Malagueta“.
Malaga’s Urban Race for Integration
Next Sunday 28th May, Malaga celebrates its XVIII edition of the “Race for Integration”. Yet another sign of the city’s full commitment to embrace residents and visitors with special needs.
Malaga – Costa del Sol airport
Malaga airport offers free assistance for people with disabilities or reduced mobility.
The airport caters to the following categories of disabilities:
“WCHC”: Passengers who are entirely immobile but are not self-sufficient. They must be accompanied to their seats and they need complete personal assistance. If the journey is more than three hours long, they need a companion
“WCHR”: passengers who need help getting from the aircraft to the terminal. They can board and move around the aircraft on their own
“WCHS”: passengers who need help getting from the aircraft to the terminal and also for boarding. They are self-sufficient inside the aircraft
“DEAF”: Deaf passengers
“BLND”: Passengers with visual disabilities
For more information about what the airport offers, you can click here and here
The city of Malaga bus service “EMT “is adapted with electric ramps and designated space for wheelchair users. Moreover, disabled travelers are no longer required to validate their ticket inside the bus in order to make the process easier. The bus line 19 that goes to and from Malaga to the airport is equipped with an access ramp. The following lines are also adapted: 1, 3 , 4, 10, 11, 16 24, 33, 34, 35 and C2
The Spanish train service (RENFE) offers a free service for people with disabilities (ATENDO).
At Malaga’s main train station, you will find an adapted ticket and ATM machines as well as information counters. If you take the local train (Cercanías) to and from the airport, there are platforms to access the trains. The majority of stations along the coast are also fully adapted.
You can view a map of Spain’s accessible stations here. For more information about ATENDO’s services to the less abled, click here
The design of the stations and trains of the Malaga subway lack architectural barriers. This enables access for people with reduced mobility. All stations are equipped with lifts and escalators to make transit easier. Users can move from the first level to the main concourse in an easy and fast way. Facilities have systems customized not only for people with reduced mobility but also for the sensory impaired.
For more information about MetroMalaga, click here
You can book a taxi adapted to special needs by calling one of the following numbers:
(+34) 952 33 33 33 – (+34) 952 32 00 00 – (+34) 952 04 08 05
Port of Malaga
The port of Malaga and access to the boats are fully adapted to people with disabilities. For more information, click here
Enjoy the city
Malaga is a pioneer in offering the possibility for people with reduced mobility to take a refreshing dip. Several beaches offer a large easy-access device and monitor attendance. Thus, not only disabled but also blind and deaf visitors can enjoy a swim with a certain degree of autonomy.
The town hall runs every year from June to September its “Enjoy the beach” program (“Disfruta la playa”). This is a free service to provide assistance to disabled users when visiting the beach.
There are currently 7 beaches that have become adapted on the Malaga coast. The beaches of El Dedo and La Misericordia offer assisted bathing. Furthermore, there are all kinds of devices to accompany people to the sea. Instructors specialized in sign language are also available.
At Guadalmar, San Andres, La Malagueta, Pedregalejo and El Palo there are points of an autonomous bath, with access to the waterfront. These areas are attended by rescue personnel to facilitate the free use of amphibious chairs and crutches to bathers. There are also reserved car parks for disabled and adapted toilets, showers and playground.
Malaga is also one of the few coastal towns in Spain with a service for the blind consisting of a small acoustic device like a clock, informing the person on water depth and distance to the shore.
More information about access to adapted beaches: +34 951 08 88 98 / +34 951 13 54 75
An increasing number of restaurants have now adapted themselves to disabled guests. From building access ramps, adapting toilets facilities to providing menus in Braille. More importantly, everyone feels welcome in most establishments.
All main Malaga museums are accessible by wheelchair users. Several museums offer assistance in Braille.
The city’s principal landmark, the Cathedral, is adapted to wheelchair-users. In addition, hearing devices for those with sensory difficulties are available during mass.