Wheelchair Worries - Saturday 24th June 2023


We were going to get the train with Adam and Ruth but they rang us the night before to say they'd met some locals who recommended we shouldn't risk taking the train. There is a gap from the platform to the train, the aisles are too narrow to fit a wheelchair and finally apparently there are two stops the train can stop at. If the driver is instructed, they will re-route the train at Pompeii Scavi and you will depart at a wheelchair friendly stop. If the train isn't re-routed visitors coming from Sorrento will have to go down and up many stairs. 

We arrived there and one of the employees asked us if we were going into Pompeii, we said we were and he said there were steps. We said we'd pre-booked the tickets and we were assured Pompeii was wheelchair accessible. He volunteered to take me and Adam on a considerable walk to get to a lift that would take us to meet Dad and Ruth. It would miss out some of Pompeii as there wasn't wheelchair access to some parts. Seeing Pompeii was the reason Adam and Ruth had wanted to get Dad out here, he'd always wanted to see it. 

Adam and I got into the lift and after a short lift ride, we met up with Dad and Ruth. I have done some research before writing this bit, because my opinion of Pompeii is very negative and I didn't want to write my negative views and then have people commenting telling me I'm a moron because I didn't take the disabled route. 

We had been informed from a few sources that Pompeii was accessible, so maybe my lack of research meant I took the wrong route?

Reading the blog How Accessible is the Ancient Roman City Pompeii for Wheelchair Users? It would appear we didn't take the disabled accessible route. There is a route called 'Pompeii For All'. Although when we booked the tickets we made it clear we had a wheelchair user. So I don't know why we weren't told of this route. I don't know if the employee at the start thought it better to take me past the inaccessible entrance rather than having to send me away to a different area. He really did go out of his way to help when he could just given us directions rather than show us. We kept thanking him profusely and he kept saying he's happy to help and helping tourists like us coming from all over the world is what he enjoys.

I believe our journey began at the Basilica which looking at the map of Pompeii is quite far to the west, missing out a vast part of Pompeii.

It's clear that me reviewing Pompeii would be like reviewing a fridge that I thought was a freezer. So I will just make these points;

Wheelchair access throughout the streets is atrocious. I saw videos on YouTube of a person in an electric wheelchair going over a large impassable rock and there were two ramps either side of it that were at the exact same height of the impassable rock. I can only assume they filmed this when the ramps were first installed and they hadn't had thousands of wheelchairs going over them and the rock hasn't suffered from erosion and been chipped and battered. This YouTube video is a very idealistic view, like when you bake bread so there's a nice smell when your house is viewed. I think if you're going to show this video to get disabled custom you must keep the disabled access to this standard.

The signage in Pompeii is very poor. Pompeii is vast, but there are virtually no signs when you're not in the streets and then few and far between signs when you are. There seemed to be hundreds of tours going on, lines of tourists following people holding flags of the language they were conducting the tour in, many people seemed to be on these tours and would be able to ask the guide if they wanted to get somewhere. The people that weren't had to rely on the odd sign that, for example would have disabled toilets <-, so you would follow it and the next sign you come across ten minutes later then points you back in the opposite direction, or doesn't mention disabled toilets at all.

There are only four disabled toilets at Pompeii, one at the Porta Marina Superiore, at the Porta Marina Inferiore, the Villa Imperiale and one at the other entry point, the Piazza Anfiteatro. The Villa Imperiale is the only toilet located within the site. The other three are located at the entrances. The remains of Pompeii's city walls are 2 miles in circumference.

Pompeii is a site to behold and if you get the chance and are able bodied I would go and see it. If you are disabled, I don't think you get the full experience and I would strongly advise you go on a disabled tour. I would say this is unavoidable though as this is an ancient Roman city and it might ruin the authenticity if there are grab rails and lifts attached to it. That said I think they have done the bare minimum in most cases and not at all in examples like the train. My experience was dampened by my uneducated expectations and also my woefully inadequate wheelchair. I have a manual self propelling wheelchair. It has big wheels at the back and small trolley wheels at the front. It has small anti-tip wheels attached to metal bars at the back to stop the wheelchair tipping backwards. Both Dad and Adam's legs were gushing blood where their legs had been hit while lifting the wheelchair up one of the streets high curbs. My manual wheelchair did allow me to see areas an electric wouldn't, but I was bothered I was damaging the ancient streets.


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