Yesterday, at the Imagine ’18 event at the Teatru Manoel in Valletta, we watched a short film depicting just some of the accessibility issues of Valletta. And let’s just pause to stress we’re talking accessibility not disability in Malta. Accessibility is a right. The film speaks for itself, so we’ll just urge you to watch it [see below]. But by way of a short intro, we’ll add a bit of context.
Wheelchair users, the sight-impaired and people needing aids to get about find most places extremely difficult to access in Malta. As one of the Breaking Limits activists featured in this very telling film said: “It’s not easy to access Valletta when you can’t even get there in the first place”. Hopping on a bus, for example, requires pre-planning to the nth degree if you’re a wheelchair user. But who’d have thought that something as routine as getting cash out of an ATM would need as much determination! It may do if you’re in a wheelchair.
The film was shot last Saturday and editing was finished just the day before the V.18 event. It follows the group trying to access fairly bog standard areas of our capital – with difficulty. We can hardly talk of a Valletta as a European Capital of Culture, if we don’t have culture accessible to all. Most of the group in this film was unable to get into St James Cavalier Centre for Creativity. for example, thanks to the ongoing building works. The film is food for thought, but it shouldn’t, and can’t be left to be that alone.
Groups such as Breaking Limits are often sounded out by the powers that be, but, as this group knows from experience, there is far less walk than talk in addressing issues of accessibility in Malta. In fact, there should be far less talk of disability issues and far more talk of accessibility. Semantic shifts are all well and good, but few of us really understand the issues of accessibility in practice. Spend just a day with a someone with a disabled person going about their life in Malta, and please watch this film; it has personal relevance to us as we have disabled family members and relatives hands-on working actively in the field of disability issues. The next years to V.18 will hopefully see greater action on accessibility.