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Accessible Gondolas: A Change in the Right Direction
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Accessible Gondolas: A Change in the Right Direction

Venice, known for its beauty and paved paths has been a source of attraction for people from near and far. Sadly, it has never been able to boast about being a wheelchair friendly place, until now. Recently, a new project that was taken up by two gondoliers, called Gondolas4all changed Venice forever by creating access points on their gondolas so that people in wheelchairs could now go for gondola rides without having any trouble.

How did the Idea take shape?

The idea was developed by Alessandro Dalla Pieta and his co-founder Enrico Greifenberg. Pieta said that the reason behind it was that many a times, he would catch a glimpse of people sitting in wheelchairs and looking longingly at those who were taking rides in the gondolas. This sight melted his heart and made him decide to do something about it.

Although they had tried to help these people get into the gondolas before, it wasn’t an easy task and they almost had to manhandle them to get both - the person and the wheelchair-on board. It was on one of such days that a random conversation turned into wanting to do something positive and this idea came into being.

It involved having a platform elevator that could be used to load a wheelchair, move it over the surface of the water and place it in the gondola. Although it sounded simple enough, it took almost four years for their efforts to come to fruition.

How has it changed the lives of the disabled?

Until recently, Tony Heaton, a British sculptor, would not have imagined that there would be the possibility of him going for a gondola ride but this new invention by Gondolas4all has brought a change to Venice that is going to last forever.

When Heaton took his first ride on a gondola, he said that the feeling of gliding across the water in such a beautifully calm way was nothing less than magical. It was a tranportive experience for Heaton. Around 60 people with wheelchairs have already got on board these gondolas and seen the city for the first time, from the waters.

Although the project was an expensive one, the two men do not regret taking a bank loan to go ahead with it. They are thrilled with the joy it has brought to the lives of many and the better accessibility that it has created for all people.

Pieta hopes that others will follow his lead and take more interest in making the city more accessible to all. The access point and the special jetty were unveiled on March 11 and by now this innovation has brought happiness to a large number of people.

There are currently 21 gondoliers in the area who are capable of conducting these rides without having to worry about manhandling the person. The best part is that it had been created by men who simply wanted to do something good so it goes without say, that Gondolas4all has certainly changed Venice forever, making this picturesque city now accessible to every person.  

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