Olimpiada Rio 2016

Rio de Janeiro Has Only "Islands" of Accessibility

Few weeks before hosting the Paralympic Games, scheduled to begin on September 7, Rio de Janeiro is still far from becoming a city accessible to people with disabilities.

Touristic areas and public transport such as the BRT buses, the light rail (VLT) and subway stations became more accessible, but going from one part of the city to another by conventional buses still poses major challenges.

Folha followed Vítor Marques, 70, who is blind, and wheelchair-user Ubirajara Carvalho, 46, as they toured around the city.

It was difficult for Marques to leave Lapa neighborhood, where he lives, for Cinelândia, a neighborhood in the city's central region to take the light rail.

He had to avoid holes in the poorly-kept sidewalks and suffered as there are few audible street signals on his route - only seven traffic lights in the city have the device.

The access to the new light rail vehicle that takes passengers to the Olympic Boulevard, however, was praised for its platform at the same level as the vehicle.

Ricardo Borges/Folhapress
*Folha* followed wheelchair-user Ubirajara Carvalho, 46, as they toured around the city.
Wheelchair-user Ubirajara Carvalho, 46, as they toured around the city.

The problems faced by Ubirajara Carvalho, 46, also began as soon as he left home. A photographer and resident of Complexo da Maré slum, he had to take the bus to Copacabana neighborhood on Brasil avenue, which runs along the slum.

However, the conventional buses, equipped with elevators for wheelchairs, are not a solution. Although it is mandatory for buses to have the elevator, many of them are broken or bus drivers do not know how to operate them, says Carvalho.

The agency responsible for the buses in Rio, Fetranspor, says that 91% of the city's bus fleet is equipped with the elevators and, if they break, the vehicles are taken back to the garage for repairs. Experts say that the best solution is to produce buses with lower chassis.

The problems ended in Copacabana. The ramps and smooth sidewalks were helpful.

Translated by THOMAS MUELLO
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