Thursday, June 14, 2012

Wheelchair Accessibility

I received a comment on one of my posts from a reader who said she and her husband were thinking of retiring here and wondered how wheelchair accessible Cotacachi is.  I remembered when I first arrived how I thought about the lack of wheelchair access but, as I was here longer, it started to slip out of mind as much.  Sure, I would go into a bathroom periodically and think how impossible that would be for a person in a wheelchair, and when I have difficulty stepping off a particularly high curb or shop step I would think about how totally impossible that would be as well, but for the most part I had gotten sloppy.

After I received that email I decided to go out and do an impromptu photo shoot of how wheelchair friendly Cotacachi really is.  The short version is: it's not.  Here's the longer version:

We'll start with my apartment.  It's on the first floor and there is no door jam to contend with to get into the apartment...

however, there is a step to get up to the front hallway.

As you look down the street from my apartment, all the stores are up a step, sometimes a pretty big step.

The big Catholic church from my side of the street--steps and steps.

 This step is too high for me to step down from and stepping up is a challenge.

 The park is very user friendly.

There are often driveways up to the sidewalk which makes getting up there easier for everyone concerned, but then...
...there's a small step up to the space.  I'll be the first to acknowledge that these are generally homes but many of them are businesses as well.

 Ah, finally, a building with a nearly flat entry.

I thought this one was funny.  It has a semi-flat entry but it has a gate across it because it sells liquor.

This is the municipal building.  First there's a very nice ramp into the gate...

Then, once inside there's another lovely ramp up to the building...

...and finally, there's even a ramp up to the second entrance.

The corners are often inconsistent.

When the street is at even a little incline, the doors are not even with the sidewalk.

This is the Catholic church from the other side.  There's a lovely ramp!  If you look further, however, you will see the stairs up from the plaza area to the actual church.  There are doors along the side between the ramp and the stairs so, in all fairness, I shouldn't assume there is no access--it does look that way, though.

Some of the streets are nicely paved and quite wide.

Others are abysmally narrow.

And not all the wide sidewalks are without their hazards.

I know it's impossible to tell but this is a nice little coffee shop/cafe that has added ramps both from the sidewalk up and from there down into the cafe.  It's the only one I saw like that in the little way I went.

This is the one restaurant I saw with access (and I had to take the shot of the lovely dress this woman is wearing.

And here's my favorite grocery store--the entrance is flat but both ways in are far too small for a wheelchair. 

This is TIA.  It's a little department store and grocery with a very nice ramp for access.

Sidewalk hazards.

One of the restaurants with a high number of English speaking customers (it's the one at the very end of the drive, not the one with the tables on the sidewalk) has this lovely flat space up to it but then there's a step at the top.

Some sidewalks are barely wide enough for one person and there really isn't room to walk in the street.  These cars are parked--there's a lane to the left of them for traffic.

Here we are at the Mercado--the fresh food market.  There are ramps all over the place here.  I suspect it's for the carts of food people deliver to the shops.  There is no central loading dock out back.  Everything comes and goes from pretty much the same location.

You may have seen an earlier post about the "food court" they have at the market.  This is the only step you have to take to get to it but it's still a step.

This is the building where they have the general merchandise shops and the various meats.

Here's where all the fruits, vegetables, and some hot food to go is found.  Another flat entrance and another fashion show.

Just outside the market the sidewalk gets nearly impassable and it's not a lot of fun for the walkers, either.  It can be a bit rough walking.

This is one of the ramps up from the street.  It's always hard to see how steep an incline is in a photo but I think the corner of it should help.  This one is a little less than a 45% angle.

Hazards abound.

Now, after saying all of this, I have to add the caveat that people in the little stores will help you by getting whatever you need and bringing it to you.  You will undoubtedly find many helpful people who would be more than willing to offer their assistance to help you get up and down steps.  I had my big cart filled with groceries not long ago and when I got to a corner with no little ramp, even though it wouldn't have been hard for me to lower it down myself, a woman almost ran up and too hold of the front of it and helped me ease it down.

I wasn't fast enough to get a photo of it but I also so a very elderly woman trying to get out of one of the bicycle cabs and a woman quickly walked over to help her out.  It's indeed a friendly place, just not wheelchair friendly.

Oh, I had intended to try to get a photo of the steps up the bus but suffice it to say that the public transportation is less than friendly, even to someone like me who has a little trouble getting around sometimes and a still not-quite-mended broken wrist.

So there you go--my report on wheelchair accessibility in Cotacachi.  As I wander the rest of the town, I'll keep any eye open and my camera ready for more updates on the situation.

If anyone else would like a report on some special aspect of the city, please feel free to let me know.  I have no idea whether or not I could take care of it for you but I'm always looking for ideas for new blog posts.  I mean, after all, sooner or later I'm bound to run out of stuff that just happens around here.


  1. I have been enjoying your blog immensely! I am planning a move to Cotacachi in the fall and am wondering if I could e-mail you to ask some questions. Could you e-mail me at

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