Durrës is one of the largest cities in Albania, home to a total of 11,883 people with disabilities. The city’s public transport has 6 bus lines and 39 buses, and almost none of them is adapted and/or accessible to persons with disabilities.
Residents with disabilities told the Citizens Channel that they find it almost impossible to be independent when traveling in the city.
Lack of ramps and other accessibility elements
Famur Bala, an activist for rights of people with disabilities who is faces these handicaps daily said: “Buses have no wheelchair ramps, they are totally inaccessible. Minibuses (furgons) are also inaccessible. There are no taxis accessible for people differently abled neither in Durrës nor in Albania.”
Even the few ramps installed are not functional and cannot be used by those differently abled.
“There is only one public transport bus with a wheelchair ramp in Durrës but even in that one the ramp has been nailed on the bus, with screws, and it can’t open, also because there is no bus station with the appropriate space for access of people differently abled,” says Flamur Bala.
People who are blind face the same issues every day. Jonuz Meta recounts that he is dependent on bus conductor or ordinary citizens to find out where he is and to be guided where he wants to go.
“We are happy sometimes when the bus conductor says that we are at this station; we feel secure because we know where we are,” says Jonuz Meta, who heads the Albanian Blind Association in Durrës.
However, it’s not all rosy.
“The public transport… we often don’t know where we are and end up walking beyond destination. I main we fail to get off at the right bus station – we end up getting off at successive or previous stations”, says Jonuz Meta.
Flamur Bala thinks that solving the bus wheelchair ramps problem in Durrës in neither impossible nor unattainable.
“Ramps are not unattainable. It’s just a simple machine that needs to be installed”, he says.
Laws and decisions that remain on paper
The legal framework for people with disabilities is one of the typical examples of laws and decisions that are adopted but not implemented.
Since 2008, four government’s decisions were approved in order to “provide” the free movement of people with disabilities.
The legal framework stipulates that municipalities are responsible to provide accessible information on the schedule of (accessible) buses. Municipalities must also provide a city bus with proper access every one hour and at least once a day an intercity bus. In every bus there must be three seats reserved for people with disabilities, enough free space for a wheelchair and elements to secure its safety. The public transport authorities are also responsible to provide orientation with sounds for the visually impaired.
However, an observation conducted in Durrës by the Citizens Channel found that the legal framework concerning the accessibility of people with disabilities was not implemented at all. Instead, they found that there were clearly no wheelchair ramps installed, no information displayed regarding accessible buses, no sound signals or any other elements that would provide these people with orientation information.
The Albanian version of this article was first published on Citizens Channel. Translation by Exit.