A place in the sun for people with disabilities

by Estelle du Toit


Imagine the sheer delight of a person with physical disabilities when a hoist lowers him or her into the cool Mediterranean seawater off the Akamas coast in Cyprus...  

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One night last summer, I had the good fortune of being invited by a friend to ‘go and eat well’, as she put it. I was not prepared for what I saw…

The soft light of evening, the smell of meat roasting, glasses being clinked around a blue pool, while look-alike family members chat the night away at big tables – the only thing that set apart the guests at a small resort complex in the heart of Polis Chrysochous, Cyprus, from thousands of others enjoying the island’s delights at the very same moment was… that most of them had disabilities.
The owner, Chris Neophytou, himself a wheelchair user, wanted to create a custom-built space for people with disabilities to enjoy themselves, either together with their families, with carers, or on their own. Nothing like this existed on the island. He did not want his guests to feel isolated, huddled together in some sort of homogenous group, but to have a great time together with friends and relatives. For his entrepreneurship, he won a business award from the Cyprus Confederation of Organisations of the Disabled (KYSOA) last year.

The luxury 19-apartment resort called C & A Apartments is in the middle of a booming seaside town on the west coast of Cyprus, situated among huge orchards, with unsurpassed views to the hilly Akamas nature area on the one side of the bay, and the foothills of the Troodos mountains and its forest areas on the other side. Good roads connect it to Paphos, the nearest coastal city, a place rich in archaeological interest.

The range of activities available to guests is huge. Day trips are hand-picked to ensure wheelchair accessibility. I had often seen the clearly marked minibuses of the resort running around Paphos town, without realizing what it was all about. Chris offers his guests a full service, from picking them up at the airport, to taking them swimming, wine tasting, shopping. All the care and equipment are in place to ensure each guest’s safety and comfort, as Chris has a second company, Paraquip, which rents out everything someone with a disability would need.

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Chris campaigned successfully for special facilities in the municipalities of Polis and adjoining Latchi to make life easier for his guests. One example is the introduction of paved paths for wheelchairs to make strolling along the beachfront to the picturesque harbour of Latchi possible.

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The closest beach is just a 5-minute drive away and now boasts a special ramp to enable wheelchairs to go right into the water. Chris also convinced some restaurant owners in Polis to adjust their table heights for the comfort of wheelchair diners.  

Chris first converted an existing apartment block by widening doors and by building ramps and installing lifts, then he went on to expand it to a new purpose built complex of specially fitted studios and flats, with level access roll-in showers, wall-mounted shower seats and rails. The flats front on to a wide, blue pool with a bar and secluded outdoor dining area – and, naturally, there are raised sun beds for wheelchair occupants and a hoist for guests to get into the pool more easily.

Although every flat is equipped to be self-catering, most people prefer Chris’s mother’s and sisters’ Cypriot cooking. Having sampled it, I can testify to the presentation and freshness of the spread we were offered, using local Polis vegetables, herbs and other country products. Chris’s father makes lemonade from the thousands of citrus trees in the area, and his mother’s cold rice pudding (ρυζόγαλο) sets itself apart by its subtle touches of orange peel. The country feeling is part of the charm of the place and so is its down-to-earth friendliness.

Seeing wheelchair users of so many nationalities whiling away a balmy Cypriot night with their families – taking photographs around the pool and having a good time was a good experience. Hats off to a niche-market entrepreneur with a big heart and to his supportive family!

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