Oh, Europe: Conflicting thoughts on everyday fitness, accessibility, and inclusion

Every time I visit Europe (I’m writing this post in Innsbrook, Austria) I have the following series of thoughts:

Oh, wow. Our hotel has stairs and lots of them and just a teeny tiny elevator. Good thing I’ve got my backpack and not a wheelie suitcase. Good thing I’m in reasonable shape.

Also, look at all the people walking and riding bikes. That’s how we all ought to live. Everyone looks just kind of  average here. Fewer super fit looking athletic types, fewer overweight people too. (I think this even as an overweight fit person.)

This is so different than North America.  Better.

But wait, where are the people in wheelchairs? Where are the older people using walkers? Are there no disabled people here? Not out in public because they can’t be? Because the cobblestones and lack of curb cuts and elevators mean there is no way to get outside? Not better. Worse.

Talking about this with my partner we wondered why state-heavy European countries don’t have more demanding rules about disability, access, and inclusion.

Here is one lovely elevator we did see, to the cable car from the Alpenzoo.  The very famous Innsbrucker Nordkettenbahnen is barrier free.  The website even announces, “All stations from the Congress and up to Hafelekar are barrier-free, so really everybody can enjoy the ride up to 2256 meters.”  Planned and designed by star architect Dame Zaha Mohammad Hadid the cable car Hungerburg funicular is striking and beautifully fits with the landscape. Click here for more images of the stations themselves.


My last post about Europe and accessibility: European walking norms, worries about accessibility, with added bonus: statue of baby eating ogre.


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