Welcome to C&A Hotel Apartments in Polis, Cyprus
 

Independence in the home
Cyprus Mail 12.10.2007

For the able bodied it is difficult to imagine a life spent sitting down. For the wheelchair bound this reality can often make one feel like a prisoner in their own home. Help is at hand though. JILL CAMPBELL MACKAY speaks to a Polis-based man who has made disabled friendly homes his mission in life

BEING diagnosed with a progressive, disabling condition and being forced to live without guarantee of health means the disabled have to unlearn the ways they lived up to this point in their life.

A huge part of that unlearning process will have to take place in the home, once a haven of peace and safety, which for the newly disabled will have become a structure that’s no longer cosy but uncomfortable, a place now fraught with danger, a personal prison where access and quality of life will have been denied. As Europe is busily gearing up to embrace the Disability Discrimination Act with small businesses, restaurants, theatres and local authorities now having to adapt their buildings to come in line with basic disability access, we in Cyprus are still far behind.

One man trying to change the way we look at, and how we respond to the needs of our disabled, is Chris Neophytou. This is a man who has been a wheel chair user for over 15 years after being diagnosed with Friedreich’s Ataxia, a disease that attacks the central nervous system wasting away the nerves and muscles. Over the years, the condition has resulted in the need for Chris to be ever more dependent on specially designed aids to keep him partially independent.

Never one to bemoan his fate, Chris turned his disability into a thriving business that also allows others to live a better and more fulfilling life. In partnership with his parents, he set about designing a self catering holiday complex specifically geared toward those with a disability. This venture is now the sole specialised holiday centre in Cyprus and guests and their carers come from all over Europe to enjoy a safe freedom filled holiday spent in specially designed ‘user friendly’ apartments.

“Good design enables and bad design disables,” this spot on quote from Chris came after a trip around the centre. I soon became aware of how true this statement was, as, like most of the able bodied, I was woefully unaware of the multitude of obstacles that lie in wait for those restricted to living sitting down. These days we all know about the mainstream products available like wheelchairs stair-lifts, easy access baths, roll in wet rooms and other equipment that have been designed for the physically disabled. There are, however, a huge number of other devices and gadgets that make for easier living in the home, such as tap turners, grab rails, and jar openers. All of these have been around for years but designers have now focused their energies on using new technology combined with simple electric and mechanical devices. For those with reduced mobility or limited muscle power simple tasks such as switching on the lights, opening curtains, doors and windows are now within reach. These can be activated by foot, arm, chin or voice, and now you can even have a system that, via remote control, can activate kitchen and bathroom appliances. There are also speech activated devices for those with visual impairment and other alerting devices for the deaf.

Chris believes most disabled men and women will find difficulties in two main areas of the home: the bathroom and the kitchen. In Chris’ home he has designed a roll in ‘wet room’ into which he can wheel himself. As he has muscle control problems the simple procedure of washing his hair used to result in him nearly falling out of his wheel chair when bathing. “When you wash your hair you usually close your eyes, when I do this I lose my sense of balance and will slump forward in the wheel chair so I now have a guard rail in place which sits in front of my chest and allows me to wash the upper part of my body without slumping over in the chair or, worse, falling out. I also have everything designed at the correct height and the wheel chair is one that can take the daily drenching of water and soap.

“My kitchen again has everything at usable height levels, with space to roll my wheelchair under work surfaces, the cooker at the right level and, like everything in the house, there’s got to be sufficient turning round room as I call it, so no clutter or over furnished rooms. All my doors have special kick panels so this lessens the damage of being constantly bashed by the wheelchair, no carpets, as this proves a difficult surface to work a wheelchair on, and mirrors have also to be lowered. That’s what able bodied tend to forget, we are much lower than you at but only in height! So we need lower access to everything, for example here we have all the beach beds with extra thick padding which makes them the same height as a wheelchair so the person can move easier from one to the other without calling for help.

“Being able to ‘do it yourself’ is critical to one’s self esteem and that’s why the correct design is so important for a disabled person. I go to toilets in hotels or restaurants that are trumpeted as being for the disabled’ and, to be honest, the majority are useless. First, most have the doors opening inwards which is hopeless for the maneoeuvering of a wheelchair, then, the grab rail will be at the wrong height, then there’s always the hunt for the loo roll, which usually needs a huge stretch to reach and invariably falls on the floor. I doubt if designers here in Cyprus actually understand the difficulties involved when you are trying to go to the loo in a wheelchair, and it’s not just about making the doors wider, its about making the whole area big enough to turn with ease and so not skin your knuckles”.

Chris now acts as an advisor to companies and individuals who look to him for practical advice on how to make things user friendly for the disabled. He also rents out a huge range of equipment for all home needs, as well as supplying everything from wheelchairs and walkers to mobility scooters.

Just as important as special equipment, is the design and layout of your home, but as yet there are no minimum specifications in place here which offer accessibility standards for new housing, and there’s little or no built in flexibility so homes can be eventually adapted to meet the changing needs of occupants.

New homes in Cyprus don’t even make a token nod to the fact that many of the owners will slowly but surely become elderly and frail, rendering the 15 high, stone entrance steps and gravel path an impossibility. Chris believes developers have firmly closed their eyes to the needs of what will soon become an ageing population and feels strongly more should be done not only to cater to the needs of the disabled but also for the needs of the elderly in our communities.

He has now set Polis on the map as a place where you do see wheelchairs whizzing around the streets - it was his constant lobbying that made local banks put in wheelchair ramps, forced the local council to drop pavement heights and encourage restaurant owners to match the tables in their establishments to fit wheelchair diners.


Being a good businessman Chris always makes a point of explaining to local traders that his apartments are full, all-year round, and just because guests are disabled it doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy going out for meals, going on day trips, swimming and involving themselves in all the other holiday activities we take for granted. Polis is probably now the most user friendly place for the disabled all thanks to Chris and his wheelchair warrior mentality.

Useful websites

Contact Chris on gc@paraquip.com.cy, www.paraquip.com.cy
Future Proof Home www.futureproofhome.co.uk
Disabled Living Foundation www.dicc.co.uk
Ricability www.ricability.org.uk
CAE www.cae.org.uk
RNIB www.rnib.org.uk
RNID www.rnid.org.uk

Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2007

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 C & A Hotel Apartments
P.O. Box 66258
Polis 8831, 
Cyprus


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   ++ 357 99498515    
++ 357 99647669
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++ 357 26322856

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