The city of Breda in the Netherlands has won the 2019 Access City Award, for continuously making improvements to make life easier for people with disabilities. Breda was honoured at a ceremony in Brussels on Tuesday morning after it beat off competition from 52 other applicants.
At the event, European Commissioner for employment, social affairs, skills and labour mobility, Marianne Thyssen, said: “Too often, people with disabilities feel isolated because they cannot access public spaces or transport.
“In Breda, public places such as parks and stores are accessible to everyone. Digital technologies ensure that all citizens can get around using public transport. And Breda’s investments pay off. Tourism is thriving thanks to the city’s commitment to inclusion.
“In the near future, the European Accessibility Act will complement Breda’s efforts by setting European accessibility standards for key products and services. Our combined efforts at local and European level are a game changer for the more than 80 million Europeans with disabilities,” she added.
The city of Évreux in France was awarded second place, with Gdynia in Poland winning third place. The jury praised Évreux for its focus on invisible disabilities, whilst Gdynia was praised for its initiatives to include people with intellectual disabilities.
Organised by the European Commission together with the European Disability Forum, the Access City Award is part of the EU Disability Strategy 2010-2020 – to create a barrier-free Europe, according to the Commission’s website.
The French city of Lyon won the award last year, and Chester in the UK got the prize the year before that.
According to a press release on the European Commission’s website, awards were also presented to cities that made “outstanding efforts to make their cultural heritage accessible”.
Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics, said: “Enabling everyone to discover and enjoy cultural heritage is one of the main goals of the European Year of Cultural Heritage.
“That is why I am delighted that this year’s edition of the Access City Awards features a special prize for two cities that have made their cultural heritage sites more accessible. I congratulate Viborg in Denmark and Monteverde in Italy for the steps they have taken, and hope that many other cities will follow their example,” he said.