Guest blog by Cristiana Campanella of Rome and Italy Tourist Services, an incoming tour operator specialized in tours and services dedicated to people with disability.
The idea to create a tourist service dedicated to people in wheelchair who wish to spend a holiday without worries, was born in 2007 thanks to the friendship that Stefano Sghinolfi (the owner of Rome and Italy) has with Carlo Rossetti, who is the president of Aisa (Italian Association for Ataxic Syndromes) who is disabled. Stefano, before starting the business with Rome and Italy, was a tour leader who for many years went around Italy with groups of tourists. One of the main problem during the tour, when travelling with people in wheelchairs, was that the wheelchair users often had to wait outside the major archaeological sites, or visit only a small part of them because of lack of access. Unfortunately, in some of these sites, municipalities have built routes that are accessible to wheelchairs but that allowed a person to see only a quarter of the archaeological site. That is why he decided to make “accessible” the inaccessible sites. The only way to do that was to make an investment in the purchase of “special equipment”.
Rome is known as the largest open museum in the world, one of the most visited cities and one of the must-see wonders. But it isn’t what one would consider accessible to wheelchairs, at least not all of it. In Rome, a must is undoubtedly to visit the Roman Forum, which is full of cobblestones, steps and arduous paths; the same is true for the excavations of Pompeii, Ostia Antica, and many more such. Thanks to collaboration with Ferriol Matrat, which is a French company who produce the “Joelette”, a special one-wheel chair carried by 2 assistants, (originally used for the disabled while trekking), Rome and Italy has e made it possible to see these sites.
In regards to accommodation, nowadays in Italy, despite the existence of laws by which hotels are obliged to have rooms equipped for people in wheelchair, unfortunately often the rest of the buildings it is not. This is in spite of the fact that hotels must be fully accessible not just in the room but from the entrance, with access to the breakfast room, with a large elevator, public accessible toilets, and rooms with bathroom equipped with grab bars, roll in shower etc. That is why Rome and Italy studied and then create a section on our web site dedicated to the disabled tourists where they can easily find accessible hotels in several Italian cities. We have visited and tested personally all the hotels shown on our website, documenting with picture and information the accessibility. All this information is now available on our website where the disabled can check, according to their needs, which accommodation would be the most suitable.
Rome and Italy also have wheelchair accessible vehicles, and can hire every type of equipment needed by wheelchair travellers. Follow on Twitter: @RomeandItaly @joelette_sport http://www.romeanditaly.com/wheelytrekky-la-sedia-speciale/