The European Commission has launched a competition to find the most accessible city in Europe.
The idea for an Access City Award was first proposed by the European Disability Forum (EDF), which described the new competition as a “real step forward”.
Seven British towns and cities – Cardiff, Cheltenham, Leeds, Leicester, Luton, Middlesbrough and Barnsley – have already expressed an interest in entering the competition, which is open to cities and towns with more than 50,000 inhabitants.
The winning town or city will have shown it has improved accessibility in its buildings, public spaces, transport, information services and public facilities, as well as having “ongoing and ambitious” plans for further improvements.
The winner will have to act as a role model for other towns and cities, and must have involved disabled people and disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) in planning, implementing and maintaining its access policies.
The commission said that “limiting a city’s access to just a part of the population, and ignoring another significant part” was “economically, socially and politically unsustainable” and “simply not fair”.
An EDF spokeswoman added: “By taking into consideration the way persons with disabilities move in the city, society encourages equal access to everyone and avoids additional discrimination.”
Applications from each country will be reviewed by both a national and European jury made up of representatives of DPOs and other access experts.
Four cities will be selected as finalists, with the winner to be announced at a ceremony in Brussels on 3 December, the International Day of Disabled People.
Applications must be submitted by 23 September, although this deadline is likely to be extended until 1 October. For more details, visit www.accesscityaward.eu
1 September 2010