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Greek Tourism Ministry Discusses Thessaloniki Accessibility Issues

Ways to ensure Thessaloniki’s tourist destinations, infrastructure, hotels and attractions are accessible to people with disabilities topped the agenda of talks recently between Secretary General for Tourism Policy and Development Olympia Anastasopoulou and Ioannis Kastouras, Special Advisor for disability issues of the Municipality of Thessaloniki.

The secretary general and Kastouras discussed ways to make the city more disability-friendly as well as current accessibility issues.

Among others, Kastouras referred to accommodation facilities that despite being disability certified are not accessible for people with mobility issues as they lack access infrastructure in rooms and bathrooms; Blue Flag beaches that provide access to the beach but not to the sea (the groups suggested the installation of specially designed submersible ramps); and the need for hand controls to be made available in rental cars for disabled drivers.

Anastasopoulou said the ministry was focusing its efforts on improving accessibility across the country and mainly at tourist destinations and referred to actions already taken in this direction, including the introduction of a special accessible tourist destination and accessible tourist enterprise label as well as to an accessible beach initiative. She went on to add that all suggestions would be taken into consideration and tabled at the ministry for further examination.

According to a report released this summer by US-based legal services providers UpCounsel, Greece is accessible for people with disabilities but needs to further improve its infrastructure. The country received an overall disability-friendly score of 4.5 out of 10, ranking 18th among 21 European countries.

Earlier this year, Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias signed a protocol of cooperation with the National Confederation of Persons with Disabilities (ESAmeA) after meeting with ESAmeA President Ioannis Vardakastanis.

ESAmeA President Ioannis Vardakastanis and Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias.

Kikilias and Vardakastanis outlined the framework of cooperation on shared actions towards accessibility, including the provision of comprehensive accessibility information, the inclusion of relevant curriculum at tourism schools on all levels, the development of education and training programs for people with disabilities in tourism professions and support actions for their employment and inclusion in the labor market.

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About the Author
Chicago-born and raised, Maria Paravantes has over two decades of journalistic experience covering tourism and travel, gastronomy, arts, music and culture, economy and finance, politics, health and social issues for international press and media. She has worked for Reuters, The Telegraph, Huffington Post, Billboard Magazine, Time Out Athens, the Athens News, Odyssey Magazine and, among others. She has also served as Special Advisor to Greece’s minister of Foreign Affairs, and to the mayor of Athens on international press and media issues. Maria is currently a reporter, content and features writer for GTP Headlines.

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