- Sport : Ferguson bows out after 10-goal thriller
- bail in : Further raid on BoC possible
- politics : Our View: Politics remains the art of the unattainable
- coffeeshop : Tales from the Coffeeshop: Hallelujah, the Cyprob makes a...
- banks : 'Why did ministers not blame bankers?'
- Cyprus : State provides €4m for student grants
- Ambrosiadou : Elena Ambrosiadou wins legal battle
- Anastasiades : Anastasiades calms concerns over UN document
- Cyprus : UNHCR concerned over Kurdish families
- Cyprus : Teenager dies
Freedom at last for disabled man
AS MANY brace themselves for an extremely tough festive season, one couple are happier than ever, rejoicing that they finally feel comfortable within their own home for the first time in years.
The former owners of the well known Shamrock pub in Nicosia, Kate and Salvador Martinez have just recently moved into a spacious ground floor flat in the Danai Estate in Mammari. The large and colourful complex situated just outside Nicosia boasts panoramic views of the Troodos Mountain range and green fields as far as the eye can see.
But it’s not the idyllic view that has made these two excited. Paraplegic Salvador’s contentment comes from finally having the chance to move around in his wheelchair as he pleases within a complex specially designed for wheelchair access and mobility. Purchased with the help of government aid, the new building includes all the amenities to suit his specific needs.
“I’m so very grateful,” enthuses the 59-year-old of Spanish and French descent. “My life has changed completely. You can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to be cooped up in a flat where you can barely move because nothing is catered to anyone in a wheelchair.”
Left paralysed from the hips down after a bad car accident in Nicosia over 30 years ago, the former jockey saw his life change from one moment to the next. “Life can be very weird. I spent so many years riding as a jockey and never had a tragic accident. Then one day in the car changed everything forever,” he says with a slight frown. “But we had to be so grateful that he was alive,” interjects his 52-year-old Irish wife. “That’s really what we have to give thanks for.”
Kate and Salvador have been inseparable for 32 years and have spent most of their married life in Cyprus.
“I just don’t know what I would have done without her next to me through all of it, thank god for Kate and at least I’m still here,” he exclaims.
“It could be worse. I might be a paraplegic but I can still move my arms and drive a car and do all sorts of other things.” At this point he wheels himself over to the tiled island in the centre of their kitchen. “I decorated this. I laid down all the tiles. It looks good doesn’t it?”
As the couple shows me around their spacious flat and surrounding gardens, every little detail has been catered for including a spacious wet room/shower room, larger than average doors, and ramps at every entry point.
“Until now we were throwing away extortionate rent on places that were just about large enough for a wheelchair,” says Salvador. “But even those weren’t great. Although apartments by law now have to be designed for wheelchair access, they hardly ever are. Once you get through the door the rooms are always much too small and the bathrooms are ridiculous.”
But as the years went by in inadequate rented accommodation, the couple was completely unaware of the fact that the government could help them move into a far more suitable home.
“It was my hairdresser that mentioned it to me just by chance,” recalls Kate. “We were pointed to the Cyprus Land Development Corporation where we filled in the appropriate forms and they took a look into our background.”
Established back in 1980 under state social policy, the corporation provides low income families, young couples, and those with disabilities with a chance to acquire their own reasonably priced housing with favourable repayment terms. In line with government objectives, it usually involves revitalising more remote or run down areas in town while also expanding building works in less developed spots in the countryside.
Kate and Salvador were given the option of housing in Palouriotissa/Kaimakli, Ayia Varvara or Mammari on very desirable terms. Once deciding on the desirable Mammari three bedroom ground floor flat priced at €138 000, they were immediately given a €20 000 discount due to Salvador’s disability. VAT was then set at 5 per cent instead of the usual 15 per cent and the Land Development Corporation then granted the couple a loan to buy the house, with a very low interest rate. “We now have to pay back €540 each month for our own lovely property but before that, we were paying out over €700 on rent for an apartment that I could just about move around in,” points out Salvador. “The help they have given us is tremendous.”
With Salvador relying on benefits to get by financially, he is also keen to praise the authorities for the monetary help that has been given to him since he had his accident. “My disability benefit from the social insurance has been a huge help. I also get all my medical supplies for free and all the medical support I could ask for.”
The couple have also been helped by the Cyprus Paraplegic Association and believe the support they have received is better than in many other places.
“A few years back we packed up our things and decided to give things a shot in Ireland because we were a bit tired of things in Cyprus. But we only lasted a few months because it was just terrible, we hardly received any help from the state at all. But you live and learn, and it made us appreciate how well treated we are here,” says Salvador.
Although Salvador is happily settled in his new home, he still has to put up with a good few disadvantages in daily life.
“I think the worst thing is going to the supermarket and finding all the disabled parking spots have been taken. People have to realise that those spaces are there for a reason for those in need,” he says.
As for going out and getting by around town, Salvador proposes that more ramps are needed outside the entrance of buildings. “Toilets can also be a huge problem. Would you believe there are still very many places that don’t have a toilet for disabled people? Many of the older places around don’t comply with EU regulations and it means that people like me can’t enjoy going for a drink or visiting a certain restaurant.”
But drinks out or not, Salvador is delighted to be spending Christmas in his new home as he points towards the vibrant flower bed outside the window.
“All this space around here is geared to me. I could never have enjoyed anything like this before; there was no outside for someone in my position. This is real freedom and I’m just loving every moment.”