Conference on accessibility of spa services for persons with disabilities
The conference “Life is a spa” was held on 29 August 2023 in the municipality building of Vračar. At the conference, the results of research on the accessibility of spas werepresented. The research was conducted in six spas throughout Serbia, namely in Kanjiža, Selters spa, banja Koviljača spa, Vrnjačka Banja spa, Gamzigrad and Ribarska Banja spa.
More than half of persons with disabilities in Serbia (56%) have not spent time in one of the Serbian spas in the past five years, and although almost all of them believe that they should go to spas more often. Half of them give up because of the inaccessibility of spa services and facilities, and the rest due to the inability to obtain funding for a stay in a spa from the Republic Fund of Health Insurance Pension and Disdability fund, and the inability to self-finance. These are some of the results of the research on the accessibility of spas presented by the Alliance for Accessibility of Serbia.
In addition to Nataša Todorović, expert associate of the Red Cross of Serbia and project coordinator, the speakers at the conference were as follows: Ivan Divac, Assistant Minister of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure, Brankica Janković, Commissioner for Protection of Equality, Slađana Đukić, Assistant Minister of Health, Snežana Popović, Assistant Minister for Public Investments, Ljupka Mihajlovska, Alliance for Accessibility of Serbia.
Nataša Todorović pointed out that accessibility means full and equal enjoyment of human rights for persons with disabilities, accessibility also means access to health and rehabilitation, accessibility also means dignity, accessibility represents the fight against discrimination and inclusion in society. Accessibility also means that we take care of employees, if the spas are accessible, the risk of injuries is reduced and in the long term, the health of employees is protected and the quality of the service provided is improved. Nataša Todorović also pointed out that barriers, including negative attitudes, affect persons with disabilities, reduce their participation in society, prevent their equality, lead to addiction, undermine self-confidence and lead to stigmatization. That is why it is important that public policies and services are inclusive and accessible to everyone.
Ljupka Mihajlovska from the Alliance for Accessibility of Serbia presented the results of research that show that the inaccessibility of spa services and facilities is as big an obstacle for people with disabilities to stay in spas as the problem of financing that stay. The research consisted of determining how architecturally accessible spas are, but also accessible in terms of service and how accessible their websites are. The satisfaction of spa users who are persons with disabilities was also considered, as well as the possibility of advocating for changes in policies related to accessibility. It was evaluated whether there is an accessible driveway, entrance and parking in front of the building, whether there are elevators, whether the walkways are wide enough, whether there are thresholds between rooms. The rooms, the height and width of the bed, the accessibility of the toilet, swimming pool and hydromassage, and the possibility of visiting the surrounding area were also evaluated.
The conference is part of the project “Strengthening resilience of older persons and persons with disabilities during COVID-19 and future disasters” funded by the European Union and the Austrian Development Agency, and coordinated by the Red Cross of Serbia. The conference was an activity of one of the 11 microgrants implemented in the Republic of Serbia