Ancient Greek Temples Had Ramps For People With Disabilities 2,500 Years Ago
United States Capitol building Washington DC USA scenic view with entrance staircase under clear blue sky

When we live in a world that isn’t open to people who can’t walk up steps, we’re forced to choose between leaving our friends behind or missing out ourselves. Thirty years after the ADA passed, few buildings in the US are accessible. Yet the ancient Greek temples that inspired our public buildings had ramps! The people who built Washington, DC and government buildings across the US made an active decision to deviate from architectural history by eliminating ramps.

[R]esearchers from California State University discovered evidence of accessibility designs incorporated into several old Greek structures from as far back as 2,500 years ago.

Some buildings, according to the archaeologists, were built even earlier than 4th century BC and were likely built with accessibility in mind. The discovery of these inclusive designs in Greek architecture is some of the earliest known evidence of ancient societies adapting their facilities for people with disabilities.

But accessibility ramps in Greek architecture are not exactly new findings.

“Archaeologists have long known about ramps on ancient Greek temples, but have routinely ignored them in their discussions of Greek architecture,” Debby Sneed, the lead author of the study, said. “The likeliest reason why ancient Greek architects constructed ramps was to make sites accessible to mobility-impaired visitors.”

Nor were portrayals of those who were physically impaired absent from their art and mythology.

Illustrations depicting the elderly and people with disabilities are found throughout ancient Greek pottery. There is also Hephaestus, the Olympian god of Greek mythology known for metalworking and stone masonry, who was born with a disabled leg and walked with a limp.

Archaeologists previously found evidence that physical disability may have been common among the ancient Greek population.

Read more in All That’s Interesting.

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