Skellefteå takes accessibility seriously as part of its urban development strategy, Source: Unsplash

Skellefteå is Europe’s most accessible city

Skellefteå is Europe’s most accessible city

The northern Swedish municipality received the award from the European Commission on account of its long-term commitment and innovative mindset

42 cities competed for the 2023 Access City Award, but the winner could only be one and that is Skellefteå, located in the north of Sweden. The European Commission, the body that grants the award, has stated that the recognition is given due to the "long-term commitment and innovative strategy to improve accessibility for people with disabilities" in that municipality.

The winner gets 150,000 euros in prize – money that can go towards implementing future ideas on accessibility. However, the second- and third-placed cities also get financial incentives, 120,000 and 80,000 euros respectively. The southern Spanish city of Cordoba and the Slovenian capital Ljubljana snatched the second and third spots.

What Skellefteå did well

According to the Commission, accessibility is an integral part of Skellefteå's planning, ensuring that public spaces such as playgrounds and streets are provided with tactile information signs and underfloor heating to ensure that snow and ice are not an obstacle.

Examples of what Skellefteå has done to ensure accessibility in the city: 

  • The city's central park and nearby river area have tactile trails and maps, seating and an outdoor elevator;
  • An SMS service for the blind and visually impaired provides information about road construction and potential obstacles across the city;
  • Public buses are also fully accessible thanks to low floors, ramps, text screens and audio announcements;
  • Skellefteå also offers training for young people with intellectual disabilities to explore technology and working methods to help them live an independent adult life.

For us in Skellefteå, this award will keep us motivated to continue on our chosen path, and to try to integrate the accessibility perspective in all ongoing activities and projects in the municipality. Starting from universal design and building a Skellefteå for everyone does not only benefit people with various types of disabilities – it benefits all citizens,” commented Elin Brännström, participation coordinator from the Swedish municipality on the occasion of the award win.



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