The European Commission today announced the British city of Chester as the winner of the Access City Award. Chester was chosen out of 43 cities from 21 EU countries, because of its inclusive measures for people with a disability in different sectors, in particular the tourism sector.
The award was granted in the framework of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3 December and took place simultaneously with the yearly Conference European Day of Persons with Disabilities on 29 November. Rotterdam (NL), Jūrmala (LV), Lugo (ES), Skellefteå (SE), Alessandria (IT) and Funchal (PT) were also awarded for improving accessibility for the elderly and disabled citizens.
Presenting the award, Marianne Thyssen, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility expressed her great appreciation for Chester's achievements in creating a disability-friendly environment for its inhabitants. She said: Chester's efforts to make its historical and cultural heritage fit for persons with disabilities deserve the highest praise. People with a disability should be able to participate in all aspects of life without limitations: social, cultural, economic, touristic, and more. I would like to congratulate Chester for leading the way in making life more accessible for all.
By making its main tourist sites wheelchair-accessible, Chester proves that ensuring accessible tourism for all and preserving historical and cultural heritage can go hand in hand. What deserves special mention is that not only the public sector, but also Chester's private enterprises are involved in accessibility initiatives. The European Jury particularly appreciated the facilities and measures targeting the most severely disabled visitors. Chester stands out not only for its impressive steps undertaken so far, but also for its long-term approach and ambitious plans for the future.
Rotterdam pursues a wide range of innovative activities, such as awareness-raising within the local community and projects targeted at the specific needs of inhabitants with various forms of disability. As the accessibility legislation in the Netherlands is very comprehensive, Rotterdam deserves a special recognition for being able to fulfil these high quality requirements and mainstreaming accessibility in all city policies.
The city of Jūrmala impresses with its constant work to ensure accessibility both for tourists visiting this spa town, and for its local population in the fields of employment, transport and education. Supporting an active lifestyle of disabled and elderly citizens was at the heart of the city's efforts, offering a broad range of outdoor and fitness activities. The measures aimed at keeping older people on the move and an enhanced cooperation with local NGOs were particularly appreciated by the European Jury.
The north-western Spanish city of Lugo gained the special mention of Smart City in recognition of its holistic and inclusive approach to disability, involving the private and business sector in all its activities. Lugo leads careers' support programmes and makes use of new Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) when designing accessibility policies. It also directs special attention to social inclusion of the elderly.
This Swedish city was awarded a special mention for its commitment to improving the working environment of its older and disabled populations. The European Jury recognized the very high proportion of disabled people in employment. Skellefteå employs 20 people with a good understanding of disabilities who are responsible for creating jobs for 700 people with disabilities yearly.
Alessandria's activities are an example of how much can be done with small financial investments, but great ideas and full commitment, as the city kept accessibility on top of the agenda, despite severe financial problems. Alessandria's ongoing achievements include awareness-raising initiatives, social inclusion and construction of inclusive playgrounds.
This island city, despite heavy volcanic terrain, made sure that all the beaches, tourist sites, taxis, hotels and public spaces are accessible, so that both locals and visitors with a disability have the same opportunities as others to enjoy their holiday.