No respect for the right of people in wheelchairs to move around freely

Accessibility was the greatest problem for Nikos Kakkos after he was seriously injured in a road accident in 1999. «Most ramps for the disabled on the road are occupied by cars and motorbikes. And in many cases public services have no infrastructure for people with mobility problems. It’s the same at hotels and restaurants,» he said. «Restaurants often have access, for instance, but they don’t have toilets for people with special needs,» explained Kakkos. «Even though I did several months rehabilitation after the accident, whatever I now know I actually learnt on my own. It took me some months to take on board what had happened to me, but at some point I decided I had to move on.» The fact that Kakkos, now 27, gets around in a wheelchair, has not stopped him from getting ahead with his life, working and getting married. He says that there is no respect in Greece for the rights of people with disabilities, which makes their life hard. He doesn’t want pity, but respect for his right to move about freely. As he said: «Disability is not something you choose; it just happens. It can happen to anyone, at any moment.» He told Kathimerini of tragicomic incidents, such as the time a bus driver offered to help him onto the bus because he didn’t know how to lower the special wheelchair ramp on the bus. Or when a taxi driver refused to load the wheelchair into the cab, saying, «I’ve just washed the car.» Kakkos agrees that a disability deprives a person of some possibilities, but he won’t give up and sees it as an incentive to try harder. He has worked constantly, in insurance and as a driver, among other jobs, and is very disappointed that the state will not issue him a driving license for the truck he bought. «I’ve already installed a mechanism in the vehicle that enables me to drive using just my hands, and so far I’ve never had a problem,» he said. Asked if he believed he might ever walk again, Kakkos replied, «God is great and science keeps advancing.»

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