Worldwide mobileWOMEN in Madrid, Spain

by Amy Saffell

Teresa Valle, mobileWOMAN in Spain
Some of our MobileWOMEN from around the world have shared with us what living life in a wheelchair is like in their country. What you read about the differences or similarities between their stories and life in the United States might surprise you. In this installment, we interviewed Teresa from Madrid,Spain.

Please describe your disability.

I have Cerebral Palsy, so I use a wheelchair. I also struggle with balance.

Have you been able to receive, in your mind, adequate medical care in your city? Has the quality of medical care changed since the onset of your disability?

Medical care in my opinion has improved a lot in the last thirty years, but there is still a lot of work to do.

With regard to wheelchairs and durable medical equipment, do you have access to items suitable for your needs?

I have access to all the equipment I need, but with all the cuts in spending in the last few years, there are many people who don’t have the things they need.

What are your living arrangements? Do you live alone or with others? Is your home accessible to you?

I live with my family, and my house fortunately has been modified to allow me to be completely independent. I am also one of sixty people who belong to the Office of Independent Life in Madrid, and through them I have personal assistants, who allow me to lead a full and active life.  This is not common in Spain. The norm is that you only have an assistant for one hour a day to help with hygiene.

Do you have a job? Please describe.

I have a degree in Library and Science Information and have worked in Spanish Parliament. Currently, I am unemployed due to the Spanish recession.

Do you have access to suitable transportation for you to get around your city?

I travel a lot around Madrid using public transportation. In comparison with other European cities, the public transport in Madrid is pretty good but not perfect. The buses and Metro are usually, but not always, accessible. There are also a few taxis which are accessible. Two of my assistants also drive, and the family car has been adapted, so if I need to do something urgently in the evening I can.

Do you feel that there is government support of people with disabilities in your country?

No, I don´t. The current government hasn´t made any advances with the integration of people with disabilities into the workplace or life. Disabled rights are not fully recognized. The main idea in Spain is that disabled people should live in residential homes, not independently. That´s why we are fighting for personal assistance to be fully recognized as a career.

Describe what you like to do for fun.

I love films, fashion, reading, going to concerts, and also meeting up with friends to have a
drink. Normal stuff!

Describe the attitude in your area surrounding people with disabilities. Are you
looked down upon and discriminated against because of your disability, or are you accepted?

In my opinion, disabled people are treated very differently and are still seen as being sick and that you are suffering. Due to lack of information, there are a lot of mental barriers to overcome.

If you are a mobileWOMAN living in a country other than United States, we would love to hear your story and learn what your life is like there. Please contact us at

Are you a reader living outside the US? If so with the hashtag #InternationalAccessibility to let us know how access is where you live!

Columnist Amy Saffell lives in Nashville, TN and works in the music industry. She enjoys spending time with friends, concerts, and volunteering for a local youth wheelchair sports and independence group. 


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