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Person in a wheelchair, Source: Riga Municipality

Riga authorities are ready to expand on their understanding of accessibility

Riga authorities are ready to expand on their understanding of accessibility

This came after concerted meetings with NGOs from the city who represent people with disabilities

This week the Riga City Council held various meetings with representatives from non-governmental organizations that advocate for increased accessibility and social inclusion of people who live with disabilities. The authorities committed to engaging in initiatives and adopting legislation that would improve this issue both in the short- and long term.

The discussions were considered to have been productive because they helped expand the idea of what accessibility means for a contemporary city. It is much more than the environmental or infrastructural accessibility that most of us imagine when we hear the word.

The suggestions from the NGOs will be included in future guidelines

Despite progress in recent years in areas, such as buildings entrances and public transportation, Riga officials admitted that this only scratches the surface and much more needs to be done if the city wants to achieve proper and full inclusivity for people living with disabilities.

"Until now, the issues of environmental accessibility have been addressed relatively narrowly in certain areas, such as transport and the construction process, but have not been raised at the political level and considered in complexes. It is, therefore, necessary to develop a common strategy or guidelines that brings together all the documents and covers both the planning and the service providers. Then it would be clear to everyone how to proceed, and together we will be able to achieve better accessibility for all residents and guests of the capital,” said V. Kleinbergs, Chair of the Social Affairs Committee.

The NGO representatives pointed out that accessibility should not only be understood in tangible, infrastructural terms but also as access to information, employment, culture, services and social life. Many of these changes, naturally, cannot be achieved overnight but the important thing is to look together in the right direction for the future.

This can facilitate the participation and consultation of people with disabilities when designing employment, housing or educational policies but also smaller details, such as street signs, house numbers, the acoustics in closed spaces, the possibility for digital communications to citizens with messages and apps.

This would result not only in an improved urban environment for all Rigans but it would also make the Latvian capital а more attractive destination for all segments of visitors.

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