Don’t let anything get in the way of enjoying the holiday you deserve on the Maltese Islands!
When the English poet Lord Byron visited Malta back in 1809, he famously detested Valletta’s “cursed streets of stairs, how surely he who mounts you swears” which he had to negotiate with his club foot in the sweltering humidity of September. Sorry, sir.
Fast forward two centuries and you will find that accessibility for people with disabilities, whether it is impaired mobility, impaired vision or other, has improved dramatically. Yes, those cursed stairs are still there and make a fine photo op too, but the island has made a concerted effort over recent years to ensure that everything from the airport to hotels, museums and even sandy beaches are accessible to all.
Malta International Airport has trained staff to help persons with reduced mobility (PRM) or those who require special assistance upon arrival or departure. It offers a range of PRM Services which can be booked in advance via the airline you are flying with or through this form. Services should be booked at least 48 hours in advance. The airport also provides priority seating at all areas inside the terminal, a PRM waiting area opposite departure gate 10, low telephone units, lifts and escalators to all floors, dedicated toilets and car parking spaces in the main car park. The distance from the baggage reclaim area to the taxi stands is 90m. From the baggage reclaim area to the car hire park it’s 416m. From check-in counters to departure gates it’s 300m.
Malta Public Transport Authority
All buses are low floor with a step-free access and are equipped with a wheelchair ramp. Priority seating is available on all buses. Audio and visual systems announce the next bus stop and signal buttons and ticketing machines are located at a height that can be easily reached from a wheelchair. Different fare structures apply for passengers with disabilities. However, there may be some restrictions concerning the use of mobility scooters on board buses.
The majority of hotels have adapted rooms for persons with disabilities or mobility impairments, and lifts with tactile buttons for the visually impaired. The Westin Dragonara Resort was the first recipient of the European Excellence Award for Accessible Tourism launched by the Malta Tourism Authority in 2014. The hotel has eight deluxe rooms which are specifically modified for guests with disabilities, and feature a larger bathroom with support bar and a walk-in shower as well as a second, lower spy-hole on the front door. The hotel also has special lifters in the indoor and outdoor swimming pools and has invested in a special person mobility lifter to enable persons with disabilities to swim in the sea or swimming pool as they wish. The conference centre features special stage equipment to enable wheelchair bound delegates or speakers to go on stage without difficulty. Emergency equipment is also available to ensure guests with disabilities can be evacuated safely and include an evacuation chair which can be used in staircases and special equipment to warn guests with hearing impairment.
The staff at Radisson Blu Resort & Spa Golden Sands has recently undergone training on how to assist visually impaired guests and their guide dogs. Commode shower chairs, hoists, scooters and other mobility equipment are available for hire but must be pre-booked. The hotel, like many others, can also arrange airport transfers in wheelchair adapted vehicles.
db Seabank Resort & Spa in Mellieha is fully accessible for wheelchair aided guests and can organise for a nurse to help with a guest’s personal and medical care. Each of its nine special needs bedrooms come equipped with two bathrooms, one standard and one adapted.
Malta’s unique historic attractions were all built in an era when wheelchairs did not exist and accessibility considerations were not a priority. However, fear not. Mod cons have been added to several popular sites so no one is left out.
The famous temple of Ggantija in Gozo, a.k.a. the oldest free-standing temple in the world, as well as the temple at Tarxien are wheelchair accessible via walkways built over the site. The Malta Maritime Museum in Vittoriosa, the Domus Romana (Roman villa) outside Mdina, the National War Museum at Fort St Elmo and the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta are all wheelchair friendly.
St John’s Co-cathedral is accessible to wheelchair users and visitors with mobility issues while the Malta Aviation Museum is fully wheelchair-friendly. The Malta National Aquarium was designed with an "access for all" philosophy and even allows certain mobility scooters depending on their length. The Classic Cars Museum is on two floors but there is a lift suitable for wheelchairs.
Palazzo Falson in Mdina may not have a lift for those who wish to visit the upper floors although the ground floor is wheelchair accessible. However, it does offer special tours for the blind and visually impaired, which include touching some of the artefacts.
Meanwhile, over on the sister isle, do not be put out by the steep hill up to the Cittadella in Gozo. There is a dedicated parking at the top of the hill which makes it easy for visitors with mobility issues to access the award-winning visitors’ centre and the rest of this historic gem.
©viewingmalta.com - (Jurgen Scicluna/MTA)
What’s a Mediterranean holiday without a day or three at the beach? If you’re worried about how you can roll the wheelchair on the sand, fear not. The Malta Tourism Authority has taken charge of the problem. Between June and the end of September MTA-managed beaches, including the popular Golden Bay and Ghadira Bay, are equipped with wooden walkways, floating beach wheelchairs as well as specially designated parking bays and toilets. Ramla Bay in Gozo also has a wooden walkway and a floating wheelchair available.