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A task force will start searching for opportunities to make society more accessible

26. September 2019 - 12:13

At today's session, the government approved a draft submitted by the Government Office to create a task force for accessibility in cooperation with the Ministry of Social Affairs.

Many residents of Estonia are not able to participate fully in society, because in the course of shaping the society, the course of human life has not been taken into account, nor the fact that a large part of society is comprised of children, the elderly, people with special needs, and other groups who cannot fully exploit the potential of our environment. So far, accessibility has been approached from the narrow perspective of people with special needs.

‘All of us, consumers, entrepreneurs, service providers, and policymakers alike, should be able to think in terms of accessibility, because only in this way will the environment around us become inclusive for all,’ said Keit Parts, Head of the Task Force. ‘Nowadays, there are not a lot of people who would think a couple of decades ahead about their own old age, and whether the accessibility and user comfort of the apartment will remain the same in the years to come,’ said Parts.

For example, according to Parts, providers of goods and services could think more about children being able to reach the ATM and the store checkout, and whether the information presented to them on the screens is comprehensible and usable. Older people should also be able to keep up with the applications of technology and be able to use all e-services.

Ensuring accessibility of the living environment includes enabling access to both the physical environment as well as the e-environment for all people, to guarantee equal opportunities and improve the quality of life and resilience of all members of society.

‘Ensuring an accessible environment is a matter of survival in an ageing society, not a temporary trend. It is completely understandable that a person – despite their special needs and those of their loved ones – must be able to live independently and move around,’ said Rait Kuuse, Deputy Secretary General on Social Policy. ‘Accessibility is being talked about more and more, but it is of little help if many people still lack the opportunity to participate actively in society due to a poorly planned residential building, non-functioning transport, or uncomfortable e-service. We must collectively agree on concrete actions to promote accessibility in all areas of life.’

The task force aims to develop proposals and measures which support ensuring accessibility in both the public and private sectors. The measures include ensuring the accessibility to the new environment that is being created, improving the accessibility of the existing environment, promoting public awareness of the topic, and increasing the capability for it among designers of the physical and online environments and services.

Various ministries, public authorities, and representatives of local governments and the third sector are involved in the work of the task force. The Government Office is responsible for convening and coordinating the task force.

The establishment of the task force specified in the government programme for 2019–2023 and the deadline for performing the duties of the task force is July 2021.

The government tasked the Government Office with setting up task forces in 2011. The task force is set up in sectors related to several ministries, where cross-sectoral cooperation is required.

Additional information: Keit Parts, Head of the Task Force, e-mail: keit.parts[at]riik[dot]ee, phone: +372 5348 6415.