Cyprus – Inaccessible Clinics for People with Disabilities – Out of 1447, only 34 declare accessibility.

Inaccessible Medical Clinics for PwDs – Out of 1447, only 34 declare accessibility

The overwhelming majority of healthcare providers in the Nicosia District have stated that their premises are not accessible to people with disabilities. This emerges from a survey conducted by the Commissioner of Supervision of the Ministry of Health, Christodoulos Kaisis, following related complaints he received.

It is worth noting that the issue of accessibility for people with disabilities to private and specialist doctors, as well as to laboratories contracted with GESY, is not the first time it has come to the forefront. In the past, the Commissioner of GESY documented numerous gaps and unjustifiable omissions in a report. Moreover, many complaints have already been recorded from people with disabilities who, due to a lack of parking spaces and difficulties in access, were unable to visit their doctors.

The issue is expected to be a subject of discussion in the upcoming session of the Health Committee of the Parliament, following a request for a self-initiated investigation by the Green Party Member of Parliament, Alexandra Attalidou. Furthermore, the Commissioner of GESY, Christodoulos Kaisis, sent a letter regarding the matter to the Health Insurance Organization, expressing concern that on the organization’s website, where citizens can check if a doctor’s or laboratory’s premises are accessible for people with disabilities, the vast majority of providers themselves declare that they are not accessible.

According to the Commissioner of Supervision, in recent times, he has received phone complaints from beneficiaries who, while searching for information in the GESY’s information system in an attempt to select a healthcare service provider, noticed that all providers or the vast majority state in their contact details that they are not accessible to people with disabilities

The beneficiaries were not only people with disabilities but also individuals who, due to old age or temporary health issues, wanted to select a healthcare facility that was easily accessible to receive health care services.

Indeed, Mr. Kaisis suggests that the information provided on the OAAY website regarding accessibility may have been added recently following an announcement made by OAAY on July 7, 2020. At that time, they asked providers to declare the accessibility of their building facilities for people with mobility issues.

The Commissioner for Medical Services conducted an investigation into this matter concerning GHS (General Healthcare System) doctors in the Nicosia district. According to the results, the overwhelming majority of providers in the GHS system have declared that they are not accessible to people with disabilities. Moreover, in most categories of doctors that were investigated, it appears that none of the providers are accessible.

“The above finding,” the Commissioner notes, “raises doubts about the accuracy of the entries, as it is reported that the received information was posted without concern for the very low percentages of accessibility declared.” “The above finding,” as indicated by the Commissioner, “raises doubts about the accuracy of the entries, as it is reported that there is no access even in providers who operate in facilities of large hospitals. This information must be precise to facilitate individuals facing access difficulties in selecting the provider they will visit. Furthermore, we are concerned about the OAAY’s stance, as it appears that after a significant period from the announcement dated July 7, 2020, in which providers were called upon to declare the accessibility of the building facilities they use, the received information was posted without any consideration for the very low percentages of accessibility declared,” he states.

The ultimate goal, as Mr. Kaisis concludes in his letter, “is the complete resolution of the issue of accessibility of healthcare service providers to ensure full access for people with disabilities and all beneficiaries in all healthcare service facilities within the framework of GHS. However, until this goal is achieved, we kindly request your comments and views on the declarations of accessibility of building facilities used by GHS providers for people with disabilities, and to be informed about your actions on the matter.”

As per the information provided in the letter by the Commissioner of Oversight of GESY, out of the 1447 healthcare providers contracted with GESY in the Nicosia District, only 34 have declared to OAAY that their premises are accessible for people with disabilities. Specifically, out of the 259 adult personal doctors, only eleven have declared their premises as accessible, while none of the 75 pediatric doctors contracted with GESY declared their premises as accessible. Even the specialist orthopedic doctors, who one might assume would have and declare accessible premises for individuals with mobility issues, out of the 71, only three declared having accessible clinics.

The question that arises is whether indeed only 34 clinics in the entire Nicosia district are accessible to people with disabilities, which is a significant issue that OAAY needs to address promptly, or if for some reason, the premises were inaccurately marked as non-accessible on the organization’s website. This is a question that is expected to be answered in the Parliament.

Source: National Federation of the Blind

The Municipality of Ayia Napa provides specific benefits to persons with disabilities (PWD).

The Municipality of Ayia Napa will provide specific benefits for people with disabilities (PWD), including tax discounts, free admission to the Sea Museum, and free parking, as announced on Monday by Mayor Christos Zannettou during his speech at the presentation of the project “Accessible Nature and Culture – Sustainable Tourism – In Heritage.”

The Mayor stated that the event “marks the culmination of an almost five-year journey, involving discussions with partners, the preparation of proposals, and their submission.” The collaboration between the Municipality of Ayia Napa and the Municipality of Rethymno, he noted, “is a continuation of a long-standing friendship, as the two municipalities have been twinned since 1996, and we have cooperated on various programs.”

He added that “the project ‘Ayia Napa – Rethymno: Universally Accessible Cities’ was the opportunity for us to get to know each other and collaborate with the National Confederation of Persons with Disabilities, and its contribution to our joint effort was crucial, as it provided the expertise and support for the plans of the three municipalities. Additionally, we worked together with the Municipality of Sotira at the beginning of the project, and today we are preparing to follow a common path within the framework of the Local Government Reform.”

As Mr. Zannettou explained, “the project ‘Accessible Nature and Culture – Sustainable Tourism – In Heritage’ prompted us to rethink and redesign the urban space with new priorities and vision. With the completion of the project, we reach the end of a journey that will serve as a starting point for similar efforts to expand the intervention areas to make Ayia Napa truly universally accessible.”

“We have taken significant steps to expand the infrastructure and provisions of the existing project within the framework of our capabilities and the challenging economic conditions affecting both Greece and Cyprus. The Municipality of Ayia Napa has made accessibility and the social inclusion of persons with disabilities a priority, and our strategic planning includes actions related to the subject, such as the ‘Universally Accessible and Environmental Civic Center’ and the ‘Construction of a Model Autism Center in Ammochostos,'” he continued.

Mr. Zannettou emphasized that “the Municipality’s goal is to attract a diverse tourist group – persons with disabilities – who, until now, have not been targeted because they cannot be accommodated by the existing infrastructure and services. They prefer off-season trips. The overall turnover of this market is over 80 billion euros per year,” he said, adding that “in 2009, arrivals of persons with disabilities at Larnaca Airport reached 50,000. We aspire to further increase this number, with Ayia Napa hosting a significant percentage of visitors with disabilities.”

Referring to the project, Mr. Zannettou stated, “The project has a budget of €1,200,810.00, with the amounts allocated as follows: €354,100.00 for the Municipality of Ayia Napa, €510,800.00 for the Municipality of Rethymno, €80,450.00 for the Municipality of Sotira, and €255,460.00 for the National Confederation of Persons with Disabilities.”

The Municipality of Ayia Napa noted that it “has absorbed 100% of the amount allocated to its projects, and additional resources were used to further improve the proposed actions to achieve a better and enhanced result. However, due to natural and economic constraints, the Municipality is not yet fully and completely accessible, but we are committed to continuing to expand and improve the infrastructure to make Ayia Napa accessible to everyone.”

Christos Zannettou also announced that “the Municipal Council of Ayia Napa has decided to grant specific benefits to persons with disabilities, including tax discounts, free entry to the Sea Museum, and free parking, which will be announced in the coming days.”

The Municipality of Ayia Napa noted that it “has absorbed 100% of the amount allocated to its projects, and additional resources were used to further improve the proposed actions to achieve a better and enhanced result. However, due to natural and economic constraints, the Municipality is not yet fully and completely accessible, but we are committed to continuing to expand and improve the infrastructure to make Ayia Napa accessible to everyone.”

Furthermore, a system for the access of individuals with visual impairments to a beach in the Municipality of Ayia Napa was installed, and improvements were made to the accessibility for individuals with visual and hearing impairments at the Municipal Museum “Thalassa.”

The presentation of the project followed, in which, among other things, accessibility infrastructure was provided at the “Makronissos” beach, including the construction of accessible pathways and the purchase of beach wheelchairs, as well as the construction of accessible restrooms and showers for persons with disabilities. A comprehensive renovation and expansion of the beach’s standard restrooms was also carried out using the same resources. Additionally, accessibility infrastructure was provided at the “Nissi” beach, including designated parking spaces for persons with disabilities and accessible signage.

Furthermore, a system for the access of individuals with visual impairments was installed at a beach in the Municipality of Ayia Napa, and improvements were made to the accessibility for individuals with visual and hearing impairments at the Municipal Museum “Thalassa.”

Source: Reporter


The organization “Assistance Dogs Greece” trains guide dogs for individuals with visual impairments and children with autism, providing them with both practical and emotional support.

In a society where every form of diversity is often met with suspicion, the challenges faced by people with disabilities are numerous. These challenges encompass everyday practical issues, such as navigating the streets, as well as issues related to lack of independence or emotional support – not to mention the issue of stigma, which unfortunately still exists.

“Assistance Dogs Greece,” a non-profit organization founded in August 2021, seeks to facilitate the daily lives of these individuals. The catalyst for its establishment was the significant need identified by the organization’s members for assistance dogs for children with autism, along with the belief that an assistance dog can make a difference.

Guide dogs significantly enhance the safety of individuals facing intellectual disabilities or visual impairments. They assist them practically, increasing their safety on the streets, and also emotionally.

According to Efi Laggaris, the organization’s Marketing and Sponsorship Manager, a dog “teaches the person to take on responsibilities. It also helps with their interaction with other people, aids in their recovery from emotional disarray following a meltdown or emotional outburst, and even contributes to better sleep quality.”

We spoke with her about the purpose, goals, and necessity of such an organization.

What is the purpose and vision of the organization?

“Assistance Dogs Greece” is a non-profit organization that trains dogs for individuals with disabilities and provides them completely free of charge. It relies on donations in order to achieve its goals.

In order to fulfill our vision, we are committed to training assistance dogs according to the highest standards and to educating individuals with disabilities and their caregivers to establish a strong bond with the assistance dog. Additionally, through presentations, we aim to change society’s mindset to include individuals with disabilities as equal and valued members.

Our vision is for every individual with disabilities in our country to be able to live with an assistance dog, providing them and their caregivers with a better quality of life through values such as independence, safety, social respect, emotional support, mental tranquility, and selfless love.

A service dog changes the mindset of society towards individuals with disabilities.

How important is the assistance provided by a service dog in changing societal attitudes towards individuals with disabilities?

We believe that service dogs bring about a significant positive change in the daily lives of people with disabilities. For example, a guide dog for individuals with visual impairments offers safety, autonomy, and confidence when navigating unfamiliar environments. It helps navigate obstacles such as potholes, inaccessible sidewalks, low-hanging branches, etc., enabling the individual to move quickly and safely on the challenging streets of Greece. People with visual impairments now have access to services and experiences that might have been more difficult in the past.

Another crucial aspect where a service dog brings about substantial change is in altering society’s mindset towards individuals with disabilities. In other words, when they are out with their service dog, people look at them with admiration and curiosity, eager to engage in conversations to learn more about the dog and its training.

How do you train a service dog?

Our service dogs are trained to the highest standards set by international organizations, always using positive methods that reward desired behaviors. The training process takes approximately 2 years and begins when the puppy is 10 weeks old.

For a service dog to graduate, they must excel in necessary ability and character tests to ensure the quality of their work.

Do you select dogs from specific breeds?

Currently, we select Labrador Retrievers or Golden Retrievers. This is because these dogs are naturally people-oriented, intelligent, love children, enjoy working, are not aggressive, and their size is suitable both for guide dogs and for anchoring a child with autism, which a smaller dog might not be able to do.

However, in the future, we plan to include other breeds as well, depending on the specific needs of individuals with disabilities.

Once you provide a service dog, are there obligations and responsibilities that the handler must have towards the dog?

The well-being and welfare of the dog are non-negotiable prerequisites for us. Also, handlers must ensure that the dog’s training level is maintained to ensure the safety of everyone involved. For these reasons, our dogs are not given away; they are loaned out under a loan agreement. We remain in contact with the families and handlers for as long as the working years require.


– What are the challenges you face during the training of a service dog?

At the moment, the biggest challenge we face is limited financial resources. As mentioned earlier, the training takes about 2 years, which translates to around €20,000 until a service dog is delivered.

– Do the individuals receiving a service dog also need training?

Always, before we deliver a service dog, we ensure that the right “matching” has been done with the handler, because we want both sides to be happy. Thus, part of the training involves educating the handler or even the family.

What kind of relationship develops between the individual and the service dog?

Every case is different and unique, but what we see in almost all cases is a sense of security, trust, respect, and gratitude towards the dog. It’s a relationship of selfless love and care that comes from both sides.

Especially in cases of children with autism, the child finds in the service dog a unique friend whom they can trust and communicate with. Just like in any person with a dog, the companionship they provide is invaluable.

What happens when the dog can no longer assist the individual due to age or other conditions?

Can the individual manage on their own or do they need a new service dog? Individuals with visual impairments, as mentioned earlier, are independent in their mobility, having been trained with a white cane. So, if their dog for some reason (e.g., due to age) exits the program, they are still able to move independently. However, using a guide dog for mobility offers greater safety and speed.

In the case of service dogs for children with autism, our goal is that over time, the child will be able to continue their life without the dog. However, this depends on many factors, as we are dealing with the autism spectrum, which means there are different needs.

You mentioned that you organize programs in schools. What is the purpose of these activities?

Through games and activities, children understand the various ways in which individuals with visual impairments can move, read, play, cook, etc. Depending on the program, children are divided into small groups, learn about Braille writing, close their eyes and play games using their remaining senses, take short walks with a white cane. They are informed about guide dogs and get to know some of them up close.

At the end, all together, students and volunteers, analyze and evaluate what they experienced, in order to convey the message of diversity and the importance of education and awareness.

What do you plan for the future?

Our goal is to integrate 5 new puppies into our program that will become assistance dogs for children with autism. Additionally, we are planning an Awareness Day where families interested in guide dogs can attend. We would be glad to see you there!”

Source: OW

Aradippou adopts our application

The Municipality of Aradippou chooses accessibility and free movement for everyone.

The Municipality of Aradippou is adopting another important tool to support People with Disabilities, as it will collaborate with the original platform “Ablebook” with the aim of creating an open, accessible, and safe city for everyone. Mayor of Aradippou, Evangelos Evangelidis, and municipal secretary Matthaios Alampritis met with the Director and Founder of “Ablebook,” Andreas Vasilios, who presented them with the idea and capabilities of the platform, as well as his vision for its development throughout Cyprus.

“Ablebook” is the first online platform for People with Disabilities in Cyprus, inspired by its founder’s personal experiences and challenges faced in his daily life as an individual with a congenital disability. It is an application that provides all relevant information and services regarding accessibility for people with disabilities within urban centers and communities in Cyprus.

Specifically, through the Ablebook app, users can view an interactive map that allows them to select the location they want to navigate to, choose categories of places and amenities they wish to be provided by those locations, and see the available accessibility features at each location through available photographic material. Additionally, users can report problems they encounter in a specific space, with direct communication with the platform’s management.

In the application, there are over 1000 locations and the facilities provided for people with disabilities, as well as all the public parking spaces for people with disabilities in Cyprus. The second feature of the application is the Ablecard, a membership card exclusively for individuals with disabilities, through which businesses within the application provide additional privileges such as discounts. The third feature is the “Kids” section, a unit that provides information on accessible spaces where children with disabilities can engage in sports, such as parks, gyms, sports teams/academies, nature trails, and more. The final feature of the application is the Ablebook Portal, through which businesses and municipal authorities have the ability to manage their locations in the application, change content, operating hours, photos, etc.

After the meeting, the Mayor of Aradippou expressed the municipality’s readiness to support the effort. “Every tool that gives us the ability to create better conditions in the daily lives of our fellow citizens facing difficulties is welcome in our municipality. The possibilities offered through this specific platform align with this direction, and we couldn’t stay away. The capabilities provided by technology can and should be utilized for equal access for everyone.”