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Barrier-free facilities increase accessibility for Paralympic competitors


09-08-2016 15:49 BJT

Full coverage: 2016 Rio Paralympic Games

In the days leading up to the Rio Paralympics, competitors began moving into the Athletes Village. Their impression was vastly different from their Olympic counterparts, some of whom complained about problems like leaky plumbing and exposed wiring. But the organizers appear to have learned a lot from those experiences. Damion Jones has more on how the second time, seems to be the charm.

The Athletes Village in Rio de Janeiro has become a microcosm of everyday life, as Paralympians dine together, exercise, or go shopping -- a relaxing atmosphere before their multi-sport spectacle gets underway. Argentine wheelchair basketball player Maria Cristina Coronel especially appreciates the family-friendly nature of the complex.

"The village is very beautiful. My family can be here and enjoy some good times with me on our off days. The competition will be fierce, but on this day, I just want to relax with my family," she said.

The building housing China's Paralympic delegation is decorated with traditional lanterns and knots, and 18-year-old swimmer Zhang Li says the layout of her room contains many helpful amenities.

"Our rooms come without thresholds, and the floors are flat. In this spot, they put down a board to make it more convenient for wheelchairs to go through," she said.

The young swimmer was initially afraid she would have difficulties adjusting to the conditions, ahead of her first Paralympics, but now says she can see that the designers put in a lot of thought into the Village. From entryways to bathrooms, every detail was retrofitted to meet the needs of the athletes.

"The armrest can be folded according to your needs. They have calculated the height here, if they installed staff underneath, my wheelchair would not be able to enter, and I could not reach the tap. This design brings us a lot of convenience."

"These are essential for us severely disabled athletes. So they did a very good job," Zhang said.

According to the Organizing Committee, these barrier-free facilities will not only be used for the Paralympics, but also serve as models for improving accessibility for disabled people all across Brazil.

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