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Innovative B_tween bench underscores inclusivity message

The Rock’s latest B_tween Bench located near the Cathedral was officially unveiled by the Minister for Equality Samantha Sacramento in the presence of designers Gamma Architects and consultant on the project, Benji Borrastero.

The bench is a wheelchair inclusive bench created for a Street Seats international design competition that took place in 2018 and is the second of its kind to be installed in Gibraltar.

Mr Borrastero, a wheelchair-using para-athlete with a firm plan to become Gibraltar’s first Paralympian told the Chronicle: “I'm still incredibly proud of the work that Ruth, the team at Gamma Architects, and myself did and that feeling has kept growing with every milestone we've hit; placing 3rd in the original competition in Portland, to the first local B_Tween Bench, and now the first bench funded entirely by the Government of Gibraltar.”

“I can't wait to see this pride and happiness grow as more appear in and around Gibraltar,” he added.

Mr Borrastero said he has used the first bench by the ICC on numerous occasions, sometimes by himself and sometimes with others.

“It's proven to be useful and now there's one in another location I'm certain that will continue to be the case,” he said.

“It's surprising how frequently I see the bench being used as we imagined it.”

“It's difficult to describe in a single word how it feels but it definitely inspires me for future projects both with Gamma and of my own accord.”

He also noted that he would like to see more along Main Street.

“But alongside that I believe that Commonwealth Park would benefit hugely from a few around, with the amount of families that may have either children in pushchairs, elderly or disabled relatives with mobility aids, or both,” he said.

The latest bench was purchased by the Department of Equality and the purchase of further benches to be installed around Gibraltar has been arranged.

“We are thrilled that our Government of Gibraltar has decided to install the inclusive Gamma B_tween Bench in such a prominent position in Main Street,” said Ruth Massias Greenberg, Director at Gamma Architects.

“We hope that it will positively impact the lives of those with disabilities who live within our community - but as we have stated previously we feel that the positive impact is in both directions - both for the disabled person and anyone else sitting on the bench around them.”

“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.”

“We believe that it is not people who are disabled but rather buildings and places that are not equipped or inclusively designed to be able to accommodate,” she added.

The Minister for Equality, Samantha Sacramento, said she was very excited to see more B_tween Benches appearing around the Rock.

“These benches will not only make wheelchair users, as well as mobility scooter users, feel more included when sitting on the benches, but they will serve as a physical symbol of the efforts and strides made by the people of Gibraltar to make our public areas more inclusive,” she said.

“It is also worth reminding that a wheelchair user was fully consulted during the design stages of this project. This highlights the importance of consultation in any project. I am sure that these new benches will be warmly accepted by the people of Gibraltar. We really look forward to seeing more of these benches across Gibraltar.”