To make its beaches more accessible, Greece has partnered up with Seatrac, a wheelchair friendly ramp system designed for individuals with mobility challenges.
A press conference last month revealed that the project is part of a 15-million-euro initiative to promote equal access to essential facilities like refreshment bars, bathrooms, parking, and corridors to sun loungers.
According to the Greek Reporter, 287 beaches across the country will be fully accessible, with 147 of the beaches already completed.
Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias calls the project an inalienable human right saying, “People with disabilities and people with limited mobility are given the opportunity to participate in beach activities with family and friends, enhancing the quality of life for everyone.”
How to Use Seatrac
To use the Seatrac system, the user must align their wheelchair next to the Seatrac chair and shift themselves onto the seat. Once the individual positions themselves in the Seatrac chair, they will use a remote to move the seat through the pathway and into the water, where the wheelchair user can swim freely.
Individuals are encouraged to visit Seatrac’s website before getting to their beach destination to ensure remotes are provided at a beach. If no remote is available on the beach, one can be delivered within 1-3 days.
The Importance of Tourism in Greece
Travel and tourism play a significant role in supporting Greece’s economy. In 2021, tourism accounted for nearly 15 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product and supported over 780 thousand jobs.
The country experienced a notable decline in tourism as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Only 7.41 million tourists visited the country, a significant drop compared to the over 34 million visitors from the previous year.
According to data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, over 25 million people have traveling-limiting disabilities, with the percentage increasing as people age.
More than half of all respondents with disabilities use at least one medical device, wheelchair users make up 11.6 percent of them.
Previously in Greece
In June of 2021, Greece’s plan to make the Acropolis more wheelchair friendly by restoring its concrete pathway resulted in criticism from its leaders.
Opposition Party Leader, Alexis Tsipras, asked that the government “stop abusing [Greece’s] cultural heritage” by making changes to the world heritage site.
However, Culture Minister Lina Mendoni defended the project, saying, “I think this is something that should also make us particularly happy because to give joy to people is perhaps just as significant as the protection of our cultural goods.”
The Central Archaeological Council (KAS) approved the development, and the new walkway was revealed in March 2021 to the public, replacing the previous walkway that had worn away.
The Acropolis’ plans for development include new accessible routes for individuals with mobility challenges and vehicles to help with elevator access. The Acropolis Museum is equipped with an elevator on each floor and has free-of-charge wheelchairs.
What’s Next for Seatrac
According to an August 2022 press release, Seatrac is setting its sights on North America, South America, the Caribbean, and Israel.
The system, used for the past ten years in Europe, has generated over 160 devices and gained popularity in places like Italy and Latvia.
For Brian Bergman, the Contract Administrator and owner of TOBEA West, Inc. and SeatracUSA.com, the system plays a significant role in the lives of wheelchair users and their caretakers.
“It gives people the freedom and flexibility to do things on their own that before this, they had to have their friends and family do this with them, which was a Herculean task in many cases, and basically they had no freedom or independence,” Bergman said.
Where to Look
Greek officials have created a website where individuals with mobility challenges can keep updated about its accessible beaches. The site provides video demonstrations on how to use the wheelchair-friendly system and updated press releases with new information.
To learn more about Seatrac, its design, and where to find them throughout Europe, visit: https://www.accessiblebeaches.gr/en_us/