Locals frustrated by lack of disability access ahead of Paralympic Games

With an up-and-down Olympic Games done and dusted, the world’s attention will again turn to Rio when the Paralympics get underway on Thursday morning (AEST), but there are problems in store.

Brazilians are already questioning the dubious legacy the Olympics left for Rio and the Brazilian economy and now people with disabilities are lamenting the lack of meaningful improvements to infrastructure to help them navigate the city.

While the Games have improved infrastructure for people with disabilities, locals said the changes were unlikely to benefit them.

Tourist attractions like Christ the Redeemer, Sugar Loaf Mountain and Copacabana beach have improved disability access as a result of the games but paraplegic Heitor Luiz said people who live in the city rarely visit the expensive attractions.


Heitor Luiz says the Paralympics have not improved wheelchair accessibility in any meaningful way.

“Unfortunately the Paralympic Games don’t make my city a better city,” he said.
About 60 per cent of Rio restaurants are now wheelchair accessible, but it is a far cry from the 100 per cent promised before the Games.

“My city don’t like me, but I like my city and I like my people and my people like me,” Mr Luiz said.


Seventy-year-old Rio local Heloise Moset has used a wheelchair for almost 15 years and agreed she does not live in the world’s most wheelchair-friendly city.

“It’s impossible. The asphalt is so wavy it’s impossible to use the footpath,” she said.



Heloise Moset says the footpath outside her house is “impossible” to navigate.

Add a lack of audio signals on public transport and pedestrian crossings and it makes life difficult for someone like 41-year-old English teacher Cinthya Freitas, who is blind.

“You always have to ask somebody to help you and so we stay a long time to cross the street,” she said.

“And here in Rio the drivers don’t have the appropriate education.”

The ABC saw several vehicles run a red light rather than stop for Ms Freitas at a pedestrian crossing and, while she said the Games have brought about some changes for the better “it’s not enough”.