It's summer time and you want to cool down with a trip to the beach. Sounds like an every day occurance in Cyprus, but until recently, it wasn't all that easy for persons with disabilities to do so. The work of the equality body helped to resolve this issue and make the beach more accessible for everyone!
The UN Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was ratified by the Republic of Cyprus in 2011, with the Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Other Related Matters (Ratification Law) [Law 8(III)/2011].
The Council of Ministers, acting under the provisions of Article 33 (2) of the Convention, by a decision dated May 9, 2012, appointed the Commissioner for Administration and the Protection of Human Rights (Ombudsman) as an Independent Mechanism for the Promotion, Protection and Monitoring of the UN Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. That means that disability matters are examined and investigated by the Ombudsman, under its powers to act as an equality body, when they are related to discrimination issues.
Within the framework of these competences, the Ombudsman examined ex-officio the issue of the accessibility of people with disabilities (PwD) to beaches. To this end, the Ombudsman requested and received specific information on the matter from the Cyprus Tourism Organization (now Deputy Ministry for Tourism) and the Central Beach Committee (JEP), while the relevant positions of the representative organizations of PwD were also obtained.
The survey found that although the number of accessible beaches is growing year by year and significant steps have been taken to increase accessibility of the beaches by PwD, a large number of beaches are still non accessible and/or their accessibility is partial.
At the Ombudsman's own-initiative report no. A.S.A. 2/2016 (31 July 2018), proposals were submitted to the concerned authorities/services for specific measures, in consultation with representative organizations of PwD, looking for fuller implementation purposes of the obligations of the State specified in the Convention, for the realization of rights of all people with disabilities so that the beaches are fully accessible.
Following the submission of the Report, a broad meeting was held on October 25, 2018, at the Offices of Cyprus Tourism Organization (now the Deputy Ministry for Tourism), attended by representatives of the Cyprus equality body, the authorities/services involved and the representative organizations of PwD. During the meeting, the content of the Ombudsman's Report was discussed extensively as well as the steps that should be taken to increase the accessibility of PwD to beaches.
Thanks to the Report and the consultations, the relevant legislation was amended. In particular, the House of Representatives voted to amend the specific provisions of the Beach Protection Law (CAP. 59) to improve the accessibility of people with disabilities to the beach, as the above mentioned Ombudsman’s recommendations, which was published on 29 May 2019 in the Cyprus Government Gazette as the Protection of the Beach (Amendment) Law of 2019 (Law 79 (I) / 2019), that amended the following provisions of the Protection of the Beach Law (CAP. 59):
Furthermore, access ramps/passageways were built at beaches that did not have and/or the existing ones have been improved, while Seatrac and floating wheelchairs have been placed on other beaches that were not accessible from PwD.