First, the coronavirus pandemic. Later, several unfavorable reports for arguments of affectation of the historical heritage. Finally, silence and political inaction. The reform of the Chamber of Congress to facilitate the accessibility of this space for people with reduced mobility continues without being undertaken, which distances the possibility that the spokesman for United We Can in the Lower House, Paul Echeniquecontinue to be unable to take his seat, and therefore, that this institution be fully accessible also in this legislature.
Last Wednesday, the representative of the confederal space, forced to position himself just in front of the Government bench, without a physical seat and also separated from his group (in addition to having to intervene from a portable lectern placed under the speakers’ gallery), once again highlighted this “unacceptable” situation.
In a letter sent to the president of Congress, Meritxell BatetEchenique asked him to resume the chamber reform project to adapt it to people with reduced mobility, a request that has not yet received a response, according to sources from the presidency of the Lower House.
Several renovations with extensions
In recent years, the presence of several deputies with physical disabilities who moved around in a wheelchair has made it necessary to carry out remodeling in different sectors of Congress, which have focused above all on the so-called “extensions”. Although, the architectural and patrimonial value of the installation has made it difficult for the chamber to be fully adapted to the needs of the workers and deputies of this group.
The solution to facilitate the presence of these deputies in plenary sessions was to place them in the hen house, located in the highest part of the room. Conservative parliamentarians were relegated to this area, which can be accessed by elevator Francisco Vaño and Ignacio Treminoand his own Paul Echenique. At the time of his intervention, as is the case with the current parliamentary speaker, they were provided with a side table and a microphone in the center of the hemicycle, known as the pitas the grandstand can only be accessed by stairs.
Faced with this situation, organizations such as the Spanish Committee of Representatives of People with Disabilities (CERMI) and the Spanish Confederation of People with Physical and Organic Disabilities (Cocemfe) have demanded for years that Congress, in addition to other institutions, make all its dependencies accessible , services and channels of communication and information.
Objective: full accessibility in this legislature
However, it was not until the appointment of the purple deputy as spokesperson for United We Can in January 2020 when this matter was put on the table with the intention of finally undertaking a reform. It so happened that it was the first time that a spokesperson could not sit down with the rest of the colleagues in his parliamentary group.
In February of that same year, the Chamber Committee approved a report by the architect of the Lower Chamber that consisted of the installation of a lifting platform system so that Echenique could sit in the bench of his group. The estimated cost of the reform was 258,320 euros. As for its construction, it was calculated that it could be done in 90 days, while its installation would take another month. In this way, the Congress decided to postpone the works to the summer of last year, when the activity of the Chamber decreases, so as not to hinder the calendar of plenary sessions.
However, the outbreak of the pandemic, which kept the activity reduced in Congress for several months, prevented the works from being tendered on time. For this reason, also taking into account the parliamentary calendar, the reform was postponed again to the summer of 2021. Although this forecast suffered a new setback from Heritage by issuing several unfavorable reports on the project, which forced require a new report that never came to fruition.
Rights over historical heritage
“I am aware that you have received some reports against the possibility of carrying out the corresponding reform due to arguments of damage to historical heritage. What happens is that this argument is not acceptable. Historical heritage is not above the rights of people and, furthermore, I understand that the reports are not binding. I understand that Congress has the necessary sovereignty to make the most sensible political decision concurring the reasons that concur, “recalled Echenique in his letter.
While this goal remains unchecked off the to-do list, Louis Alonsomanager of the state CERMI, urges that this matter be resolved soon and recalls in a conversation with Public that the Congress table has to its credit a reform proposal sent by the platform in 2019. “No matter how complicated the project is, there are technical solutions, but there is no political will,” he maintains, later adding: “We are not aware either that there is a heritage regulation that prohibits making these adaptations”.
However, this is not the only architectural barrier that people with reduced mobility have to face. kiko rosiquea journalist from Servimedia, tells this outlet that the biggest problem he faces daily when traveling in a wheelchair to cover parliamentary information is access to the patio, which connects Extension I, where the press booths are located, with the Palace of Congress.
To go to this space, the fastest way is some stairs. “I can go to the courtyard, but I have to do it by taking an elevator to floor one, crossing the bridge that connects to the palace area, and going down in another elevator to floor zero,” he says. The problem, he adds, is that if a group is called spontaneously, this professional does not arrive on time. “The best thing would be a ramp,” Rosique reflects on the part that, in her opinion, is “worst adapted” within this enclosure.
“A lot has been done, but there is still a lot to do,” sums up Luis Alonso about the progress and pending tasks in this area both in this institution and in others, since Kiko Rosique adds: “Our mission as a rational society is to correct the injustices and inequalities that chance or bad luck have created”.