The Swedish city of Skellefteå was recognised with the 2023 Access City Award for its dedication and innovative approach to increasing accessibility for persons with disabilities, which count for around 87 million people in the European Union.
There is no doubt that accessibility is a precondition for persons with disabilities to fully participate in all areas of life on an equal basis with others. Skellefteå is one step ahead, including accessibility in all the city’s plans, ensuring that public spaces such as playgrounds and streets are equipped with tactile information signs and ground heating, so as to ensure that snow and ice are not an impediment.
The announcement was revealed during the 2022 European Day of Persons with Disabilities Conference, on 24 and 25 November, in Brussels, with the awards presented by the Vice-President for Values and Transparency, Věra Jourová and Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli.
There is a persistent disability employment gap, which stood at 23% last year. The Commission adopted the EU Disability Rights Strategy for the rights of persons with disabilities in line with the European Pillar Social Rights.Helena Dalli, Commissioner for Equality
2. Innovative and inclusive
Some examples of Skellefteå’s inclusiveness include the city’s central park and nearby river area, which have tactile paths and maps, seating and an outdoor elevator. In addition, the city developed a SMS-service for blind and partially sighted persons provides information on road construction and potential obstacles across the city. Public buses are also fully accessible thanks to low floors, ramps, text screens and audio announcements.
The Swedish city is also empowering young people with intellectual disabilities with dedicated trainings, allowing them to explore technology and ways of working to help them lead an independent adult life.
Tamara Byrne, who has recently joined the European Disability Forum Youth Committee, was a speaker at the European Day of Persons with Disabilities, sharing experiences of anxiety and depression due to the lack of choice to pursue a professional path, despite her high-level educational background.
I don’t want other people with disabilities to experience the anxiety and depression that I went through. I want them to have choice. (…) If governments employed more people with disabilities then we would have paid jobs and not be ignored.Tamara Byrne
3. Córdoba and Ljubljana
During the conference in Brussels, other cities were also recognized for their work to include the needs of persons with disabilities. The Spanish city of Córdoba and Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana were awarded the second and third place prizes, respectively. Finally, three other cities received a special mention for their efforts in becoming more accessible: Hamburg, in Germany, for its built environment, Grenoble, in France, for its transport network, and Mérida, in Spain, for its information and communication technologies.