It has been the same ritual for seventeen years: the Handiplage site of Larvotto officially launched its season last week again, for the delight of the organizers and its beneficiaries.
Getting into the water is gradual, but the smile is immediate. Christiane-Eugenie Gautier is one of the many people with disabilities to take advantage of the Handiplage site at Larvotto Beach. After trying the experience on the French beaches, she was seduced by the Monegasque setting.
”In France, space in the water reserved for people with disabilities has been reduced. Here it is great and the view is magnificent. We can bathe in safety, just like able-bodied people,” she rejoiced.
Launched in 2000, on the initiative of the Club Soroptimist de Monaco (CSM), with whom the Principality has partnered since 2006, the Handiplage is also open to the elderly as well as the visually impaired and the blind. For the latter two, the Audioplage was born in 2007, allowing the visually impaired to bathe in peace of mind with beacons indicating their position in the water.
To accommodate and satisfy everyone, four “Tiralo” are available and four ‘handiplagistes’, or attendants, are present every day without interruption, from 10 am to 5 pm. The season was officially launchedlast week and will last two months, until 3 September.
The inauguration of the site took place last week, with several representatives, including Thierry Poyet, National Councillor; Jacques Pastor, Deputy Mayor for Sports and Recreation; Evelyne Tonelli, President of the CSM; ÉlodieKoukoui, head of the handicap and social inclusion division; and more.
“It attracts a lot of people, both from the local population and from seniors’ health facilities that organize visits for the residents. Without this arrangement, they may never be able to come to the beach, in the midst of children, people and activities,” said Ludmilla Raconnat-Le Goff, a technical advisor in the Department of Health and Social services. “On a seasonal report, we service between 450 to 500 bathers,” added Michaël Fiori, senior administrator in the social welfare department and in charge of accessibility and actions for disabled people.
Satisfied with this completely free service, which does not require a reservation, the Handiplage recipients also have some ideas to improve the experience.
“We have an Indian summer that allows swimming until October. It would be great to extend the season to mid-September … Similarly, for the schedule: closing at 6 pm rather than 5 pm, we could enjoy a little more time,” offered Christiane-Eugenie Gautier, being cheeky.
Ludmilla Raconnat-Le Goff and Michaël Fiori both agree: “We can ask people for recommendations. Everything is perfectible—but always subject to technical and safety aspects.”
The government has taken over management, while the CSM finances investments and improvements. “The partnership was essential,” explained the CSM president, Evelyne Tonelli. “It became rather heavy, being a club of only about twenty people. Handiplage is our baby and it has been very satisfying.” She concluded: “Our reward is their smile.”