The town of Breda in the Netherlands is famous for its history. Founded in the 10th century, it survived sieges and wars, acquired its own fortress wall, and even once surrendered to Russian Major General Benkendorf. About 170 thousand people live here, and tourists come to enjoy quiet rest and views of the medieval castle, walks through cozy parks and streets with old houses and churches. A bit of excitement in this typical European set brings beer restaurants and numerous coffee shops, getting to Breda is easy - just an hour by train from Antwerp, or two from Amsterdam. An interesting fact is that of all the brilliant European cities, it was the modest Breda that received the award from the European Commission for creating an accessible environment for people with disabilities - 2019 Access City Award. In 2019, this Dutch city will bear the title of the most accessible EU city.
“Breda is a source of inspiration for cities in Europe and beyond, which encounter similar challenges” – says the official statement of the European Commission.
The Access City Award, organized by the European Commission together with the European Disability Forum. It recognizes those cities that are leading lights in overcoming obstacles across Europe today. The Award is given to the city that has clearly and sustainably improved accessibility in fundamental aspects of city living, and that has concrete plans for further improvements. The purpose of the Award is to inspire other cities, which may face similar challenges, and to promote good practices across Europe.
The Award is traditionally addressed to European cities with more than 50,000 inhabitants. Cities are expected to demonstrate a comprehensive approach to accessibility across four key areas: built environment and public spaces; transportation and related infrastructure; information and communication including new technologies (ICT); public facilities and services.
For the 2019 Access City Award, the European Commission received 52 applications. The winner is Breda. The city of Évreux in France and the city of Gdynia in Poland are the second and third place winners. Finally, Kaposvár in Hungary and Vigo in Spain both received a special mention.
At the award ceremony, 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.”
The previous winners of the Award are: 2018, Lyon (France); 2017, Chester (United Kingdom); 2016, Milan (Italy); 2015, Boras (Sweden); 2014, Gothenburg (Sweden); 2013, Berlin (Germany); 2012, Salzburg (Austria); 2011, Avila (Spain).