If you are a person with a disability then be prepared to
have a very hard time roaming Tirana. Many times the city has changed its urban
landscape but still today, it is far from being more accessible than before for
those who have mobility difficulties as result of disabilities.
Being a person with a disability myself, I know that walking
around for us is a challenge everywhere, but if you live in Tirana, that can be
considered a real misfortune.
Tirana is perhaps the only country in Europe where blind
persons cannot use the white canes to move independently through the city
roads. This come due to lack of infrastructural access and high risk that comes
from the reckless drivers.
They also know very little about the white cane and how they
should behave in relation with pedestrians who carry them. Drivers' eyes are
not used to detect persons with disability, since the latter are rarely walking
alone in the city for obvious security reasons.
Though in the eyes of the state authorities measures for
facilitating the movement of disabled are taken. As the most important ones
they mentions the building of wheelchair ramps in some of the public building entrances.
The reality is that these ramps are putted more for symbolic
reasons than as an urban arrangement to help the persons with mobility
difficulties. They often are out of standards, steeper or slippery, elements
that can risk instant of helping the lives of wheelchair users.
On the other hand, often state authorities lack the
sufficient information how to integrate in the city elements that can improve
the mobility of persons with disabilities. In the majority of cases helping
tools are putted with no clear strategy, just because they come as obligations
from European Union or international conventions that country has ratified.
For example, municipality of Tirana officials pretend that
since two years traffic lights with audio signal are being installed in the
city, though no blind persons have never heard such signals in their walking
It seems that officials themselves don't know that those traffic
lights must be turned on all the time, to inform by sound as well as by light pedestrians
and motoric vehicles. In their knowledge, the blind person is supposed to go
and press the button in order to hear the traffic light audio.
But even the blinds will find and press the buttons, those
are often broken and damaged by harmful citizens and they cost to be bought
Sometime even when a family member or a friend is being
offered to guide disabled persons, narrow sidewalks toughen the movement of
each. They often are occupied by ambulant sellers, tables of coffee shops, cars
wrongly parked and even very wide rounding borders of plants and trees.
Generally, if you want to park your car in Tirana, you
should walk long on foot till your destination, but what if you don't have
foot? This doesn't come with an answer, since accessible and dedicated parking
lots are very limited in number and in majority of cases occupied by those who
are not disabled.
Even though in the meetings with civil society organizations
and the activists from the community, the local and central governments
representatives show good will to change this reality, for disabled
independently and safety movement is still impossible.
Being a European country, with a relatively small number of inhabitants
and still being so chaotic with communities not able to even roam in the
cities, is a real paradox. As it is that after 16 years from the shifting of millenniums
disabled people are still disintegrated in the city active life in a time when politician
have ambitions of integrating the country in European Union.