Plaça de Lesseps and its accessible entrances, ramps, and smooth surfaces offer a green space for people of all walks of life, including people with disabilities.

Exploring La Gràcia district in Barcelona on foot introduced me to a beautiful part of the city that represents what Barcelona really is, was, and should be. By following a strict map that wandered through the barrio and hit the many plazas of Gràcia, I was able to walk the path of a real traveler rather than feeling like a tourist. I was particularly surprised by the many examples of accessibility, community, and health promotion that this barrio has to offer its residents.

 

Accessibility

Fortunately, Barcelona is a city that prides itself in its trait of accessibility. The result is the inclusion of all types of people in public spaces no matter their disability status, which in turn promotes a sense of community. Throughout Gràcia’s public spaces whenever there were stairs, there was also an option to use a ramp. The benefits of this simple addition was visually represented by the diversity in visitors who spent time in the plazas. I was genuinely shocked to see well over 10 disabled folks using wheelchairs, walkers, or canes throughout my walk. After all I come from Chicago, a city whose main mode of public transportation, the rail “L” system, is not completely handicapped accessible and so movement in my city is not universally advocated. On the other hand, Gràcia, even with its narrow streets and sidewalks, still ensured that public space would serve as solace for those of all able statuses. The neighborhood proved that even the age of the town is no excuse to neglect progress and inclusivity.

From toddlers, to teens, to young parents, to the elderly, Plaça del Nord is a space that serves as an inter-generational place of play and lounging.

Community

To me, diversity is not just a demographic statistic; it is an aspect of a community that has a direct impact on my sense of comfort and belonging. Gràcia surprised me in its own diversity, not just of race but also of age. Walking through the barrio my group member Eddie and I could not help but notice the significant amount of fellow Asian people that we saw roaming the streets. There were also many options for ethnic foods including Chinese, Japanese, and Arab restaurants. Along with the accessibility piece, such an example of cultural appreciation through food promotes an inclusive community. Barriers between generations was absent in Gràcia as well. In fact, it seemed as though the community encourages an inter-generational society. Nearly all plazas incorporated items that would be suitable for people of all ages: playgrounds for children and their parents, open spaces for adolescents to hang out, and benches on which the elderly could lounge. No one is left out in such places of gathering, which strengthens Gràcia’s sense of community.

Health Promotion

Carrer de Verdi is home to a multitude of local, specialized shops, restaurants, and fresh food markets whose main visitors’ mode of transport is by foot.

The aspect of Gràcia that especially impresses me is the barrio‘s clear promotion of health. That is evident in its wide array of fresh markets specializing in fruit, bread, and organic foods along with the availability of pharmacies and local markets at nearly every corner. Along with its Catalonian history and architecture, this kind of access is what sets Gràcia apart from neighborhoods in Chicago. Unfortunately, by mapping the city of Chicago it is evident that there are multiple communities experiencing a food desert where there are no supermarkets. This is completely different than Barcelona where there is access to fresh food markets at nearly every direction. I also noticed that most people in this neighborhood relied on active modes of transport by either walking or bicycling. Bike racks were nearly always filled, and people on foot were a common scene. Perhaps if Chicago shared the same access to healthy food options and local shops way that Gràcia’s intimate, narrow streets provide, then health would be better promoted there as well.