From indifferent professors to ‘aesthetically displeasing’ ramps

Being taken to the hospital by friends after his accident made Vassilis Dimitriadis’s condition worse. «The doctors told me I might have been able to walk again if I had been transported by professionals,» said Dimitriadis, who has been in a wheelchair ever since he came off a motorcycle in 1986. Dimitriadis is president of the National Federation of Mobility Impaired People and on the board of the International Federation of Persons with Physical Disability. «I had great difficulty getting out of the house at first,» he recalled. «There is no infrastructure for mobility-impaired people. Now, when I want to go somewhere, I make an entire plan. I check that I have access, I calculate every step, every uphill gradient.» As he pointed out, the lack of suitable infrastructure, even in public buildings, has wide-ranging consequences. «Most people with disabilities stop after basic education and very few go on to higher education. Our federation has received complaints about the indifference of some professors who know that students have a mobility impairment but insist on them being examined in a room to which they do not have access.» Dimitriadis explained that this forces students with disabilities into a ghetto. «It’s not special educational facilities we need but infrastructure that enables us to get around.» He completed international and European studies at Panteion University, a postgraduate degree in health management, and is now doing a doctorate on quality control systems in health. He admits that there are many health problems associated with mobility impairment which are not apparent to those who see someone else getting round in a wheelchair. He noted bitterly that he often meets individuals who see people with disabilities as second-class citizens. «Typically, when someone with a disability tries to install a ramp, there’s almost always someone in their apartment block who finds it ‘aesthetically displeasing’ and causes a fuss. Then there was a woman with multiple sclerosis who installed a ramp three times and each time one of her neighbors removed it.»