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Disability friend ‘B_tween bench’ unveiled outside ICC

Johnny Bugeja

The first disability friendly ‘B_tween bench’ in Gibraltar was installed outside the ICC yesterday.

The bench was unveiled by its creator Ruth Massias Greenberg, the Minister for Equality Samantha Sacramento, and para-athlete Benji Borastero.

The B_Tween Bench, designed by local company Gamma Architects, took third place at the Street Seats international design challenge in 2018.

The Department of Equality and the ICC were two of the sponsors of this design at the competition stage.

This particular bench has been purchased by the ICC, and the Department of Equality has also already purchased another bench, which will be revealed in coming weeks at another location.

Mrs Sacramento has arranged for Government to purchase further benches to be installed throughout Gibraltar going forward including the new park at Governor’s Parade

“We are really happy that the response has been so positive and everyone has been so enthusiastic about these benches coming home to Gibraltar,” said Mrs Massias Greenberg.

“It is a very proud moment having the first one here at the gateway to Main Street.”

She also noted the support she has received from the department of equality and local developers and businesses.

“It is a very small step, but a step towards inclusivity and further ways that we can think of design so we can be more inclusive,” she said.

Ms Sacramento stated that the bench represents real inclusion.

“This is the first and it has been purchased by them and it is a private purchase, but Government endorse it,” she said.

“We actually collaborated with Ruth and we the Ministry for Equality sponsored the process by giving a donation during the whole design stage. We have committed to continue to purchase B_tween benches and you will see many more of these around Gibraltar.”

Ms Sacramento added projects like this are fundamental in an inclusive society.

“This bench is truly inclusive, not only because the wheelchair user is not on the fringes, but also because, as an end user, a wheelchair user has been fully consulted at the concept and design stage,” Ms Sacramento said.

“The importance of this cannot be stressed enough. I look forward to see more of these benches appear around Gibraltar.”

Mrs Massias Greenberg hopes the bench will positively impact the lives of those with disabilities who live within the local community.

“The bench embraces those who may sometimes sit on the margins of society - we no longer want people to be on the side but rather in our epicentres -the bench is an expression of this,” she said.

Mr Borastero was delighted to see it come to Gibraltar having seen it in Portland, USA, when it was on display as part of a global competition.

“To see it in Gibraltar where I live and having it be a permanent fixture in my life is just hard to put into words,” Mr Borastero said.

“But, one thing I do hope is that this helps bring inclusivity into the forefront of people’s minds because it is something that is simple and part of your day to day.”

“If something that is part of your day to day can be inclusive then we can start building on it until we have what I hope to be a fully inclusive community one day.”

A representative from the ICC said this was an “amazing initiative” and they hoped this would make a difference to people using the benches.

“Our aim and goal is for the ICC, with our planned improvements, is to be a champion and example of inclusivity for everyone. The B_Tween Bench is an expression of this and we are delighted to be a part of it.”