Cities Leskovac, Sombor, Smederevo, Loznica and city municipality Vračar received awards for the contribution to the development of all forms of accessibility on their territory in 2018. Municipality Svilajnac received the recognition for continuous work on accessibility development, while commendations for participation in this year’s competition were given to cities Vršac, Vranje, Zrenjanin, Novi Pazar, city municipality Pantelej in Niš, city municipality Savski venac in Belgrade, municipalities Mionica, Bela Palanka, Raška, Vrnjačka Banja, and Paraćin.
The awards to local self-governments for their contribution to the accessibility development were presented, for the third time, by the Ombudsman of the Republic of Serbia in cooperation with the Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit of the Government of the Republic of Serbia and the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities – Serbian Association of Towns and Municipalities, at a ceremony held at the Deputies Club in Belgrade.
“Realizing the full accessibility of settlements is a long-term and developmental process through which all municipalities and cities go through, more or less successfully,” said Olja Jovičić, Secretary-General of the Protector of Citizens Expert Service. She highlighted that achieving that goal required a firm decision-making form the leaders of local self-governments, close cooperation with organizations which bring together persons with disabilities and other civil society organizations, as well as a sustainable strategy and trained professionals.
Aleksandar Bogdanović, Coordinator for European Affairs and International Cooperation in the Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit of the Government of the Republic of Serbia, pointed out that the main goal of the Team was precisely to achieve conditions which would allow every citizen of the country to realize their full potential. “The challenges are really big, starting with prevailing attitudes. No matter how small, prejudices against persons with disabilities are still present. That is why this award is extremely important in terms of promoting and raising awareness that the situation should be improved,” Bogdanović said. He indicated that the barriers were not only architectural, but that the removal of all barriers should be discussed, in order to enable a better life in terms of availability of cultural content, information and communication technologies, everything that permeates different aspects of life was important for the realization of the potential of all people.
Ivan Milivojević, Deputy Secretary General of the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities, said that this year the goal was to support initiatives which represented strategic thinking about accessibility, as well as initiatives which involved end users. “It is particularly important that we have had many initiatives in the field of culture and tourism, whereby local self-governments show that they have surpassed classical approaches and are now going into the sphere of innovative thinking with regard to these areas,” Milivojević emphasized.
Miodrag Počuč, the member of the Ombudsman’s Council for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, explained that accessibility implies that every person has the opportunity to live independently and participate in all aspects of life, on an equal basis, and that that approach was beneficial to everyone. “It is necessary to change the approach to solving accessibility problems by designing an environment for all people, or for all differences. Success can only be achieved with the full commitment of decision-makers, strategic planning, through consultation with end users, networking and providing adequate information to the public,” concluded Počuč.
Representatives of the award-winning local self-governments expressed their gratitude and emphasized that the award was a great incentive, but also an obligation to continue developing all forms of accessibility in their own environments in the future.
Click to download the document on the most frequently used accessibility elements prepared by the representatives of the Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit, the Ombudsman and the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities (.pdf, Serbian language).