Eight students of the course Orthopedagogy at the Charlemagne University College in Antwerp complain about wheelchair accessibility in the Antwerp hospitality industry in a self-made video. They went out on the Groenplaats, and found that only one in five cafés they passed could enter independently with a wheelchair. “This is problematic, because wheelchair users also have the right to enter bars and restaurants independently.
For the subject Social Challenges, eight final-year students of Orthopedagogy of the Charlemagne University College embarked on a project about wheelchair accessibility in Antwerp restaurants. For Ashley, Nel, Charlotte, Amber, Jolien, Jana, Lieselotte and Sanne the theme is close to their hearts: one of them is in a wheelchair after a skiing accident, and they all know someone from their own group of friends who is a wheelchair user. “That’s why we decided to choose this theme for our project, because wheelchair accessibility in catering establishments is very important. For us, this project goes beyond just a subject for school: we really want to change something”.
One on Five
The students took a wheelchair to the Groenplaats to experience what it is like to go out for a drink or a meal in the city as a wheelchair user, and unfortunately wheelchair accessibility is problematic in Antwerp’s catering establishments: at about 20 of the 25 cafés they passed, a wheelchair user cannot enter without help. “With about 13.3% of the population having a physical disability, this is a big problem”, says Sanne. “Five things did have sanitary facilities for wheelchair users and a lift, but five is not enough. In very few places you can go for a drink as a wheelchair user, because everything depends on whether you can enter or not, and sanitary adjustments for wheelchair users are not easy to find. Wheelchair users can rarely make impulsive decisions, which is very unfortunate, because they also have the right to a pleasant evening in a café or restaurant”.
In addition, the students interviewed restaurant owners about the (im)accessibility of their building. They were often told that they are not allowed to make any changes because they are housed in a listed building, or that there is no budget for it. “That’s why we want our film to reach as many people as possible, and perhaps ultimately appeal to politicians. The film already has some views on Facebook, but hopefully as many people as possible will see how bad things are with wheelchair accessibility in Antwerp’s hospitality industry. In any case, we are indignant about this, something has to change”.