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  • Writer's pictureRyder Lyne

2023-06-23 ADA in Europe

ADA in Europe


The abbey of the Mont Saint Michel dominates a small piece of land in the region of Normandy, France, sitting high on the hill above a village of narrow streets and cobblestone surfaces. While jostling through the packs of tourists, one must pause occasionally to appreciate the striking beauty of this promontory that becomes inaccessible by land at high tide. I recall from a tour long ago that the abbey itself has been used as an abbey, a prison, and a palace. Don’t quote me on that. I also recall that monks spent their final years here. No wonder. The steep inclines, rough-hewn stairs, and lopsided cobblestones would make escape impossible. 


It is rare to see people with disabilities in Europe. Updating ancient cities is probably prohibitively costly. So a woman in an electric scooter tooling around a small town in Portugal appeared to be an anomaly. (I wish I could name the town, but the entire tour is a blur at this point.) Just when I was mulling over how she was getting around, I saw a ramp leading from the sidewalk into the street. Then I noticed several of them. These were the first accommodations I had seen anywhere in Europe. Had Portugal adopted the ADA


I recall when the ADA became law. Street corners were modified to allow wheelchairs and walkers. Turnstile entries offered alternative doorways. Not just the disabled, but parents pushing strollers appreciated the changes. As my joints have deteriorated, I appreciate the ramps at the curbs, dismayed at how difficult 6” can be. Same with elevated toilets which, thankfully, are becoming the norm.


So what about this lady in Portugal? I entertained the thought that she is the mayor’s wife whose husband proposed the adaptations. Good for him. When the sexism in that thought woke me, I allowed that she herself is the mayor. Later as a man in an electric wheelchair breezed by me, I placed him as the mayor’s husband. Well, maybe the mayor. 

If I had had more time, I would have trekked over to cậmara municipal (city hall) to find out how these accommodations came about. In any case, good for them. I know there is at least one town in Portugal that will accept my walker if needed. If only I could remember the name of the town. 


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