Many people associate accessibility only with the fields of construction and technology. However, accessibility is much more than just building wheelchair ramps.
Accessibility has been achieved when – as far as possible – everyone can access and use buildings and other structures, means of transport, technical devices, information processing systems and other designed areas of modern life in the usual way without particular difficulties and without assistance from others (see the legal definition in Section 6 para. 5 of the Federal Disability Equality Act [Bundes-Behindertengleichstellungsgesetz, BGStG]).
The lack of such conditions excludes certain people.
Accessibility facilitates the unrestricted participation in:
- Education at school and vocational training
- The entire leisure, consumer and services sector
- Communications technologies and media
- Sports and tourism services and facilities.
The elimination of barriers is of the greatest importance to people with disabilities, because accessibility makes an essential contribution towards equality and inclusion.
Mobility and autonomy
Demographic trends show that society is becoming increasingly older. As greater disability-related restrictions of personal mobility can be expected with increasing age, accessibility will become even more important in the future, because a barrier-free environment can make a considerable contribution towards the maintenance of individual independence and enable people to remain in the home environment they are used to.
The barrier-free Ministry of Social Affairs
The Federal Disability Equality Act (BGStG),which came into effect on 1 January 2006, obliges the federal government to take suitable and specifically required measures to facilitate the barrier-free access of people with disabilities to its services and offers. The goal of the law is the equal participation of people with disabilities in society. It aims to facilitate the access to and provision with goods and services of people with disabilities
The buildings used by the Ministry of Social Affairs are largely accessible in terms of their construction and can in principle be fully used in the usual way by people with disabilities without the help of other persons.
Comprehensive accessibility also covers events. The Ministry of Social Affairs places great emphasis on accessibility when planning and carrying out public events.
Barrier-free access to information is also a very significant aspect for people with disabilities. For example, brochures and information materials are offered in accessible formats such as easy read versions or sign language videos. The Ministry of Social Affairs thus offers information on the UN Disability Rights Convention, the legislation on the equality of people with disabilities, and on the National Disability Action Plan in easy read versions.
Due to an EU directive, public websites have to be designed so as to be accessible for their users. To this end, the Web Accessibility Act (Web-Zugänglichkeits-Gesetz) has been enacted at a federal level. This is designed to grant people with disabilities in particular the right to unrestricted use of public websites. The website of the Ministry of Social Affairs thus provides accessible information as required by the Web Accessibility Act.
The Accessible Businesses Campaign
Against the background of the general political objective of the creation of accessibility, the Ministry of Social Affairs has initiated an Accessible Businesses Campaign which aims to create incentives for companies and support them in offering their products and services in an accessible way. Equal participation in public life and the breaking down of barriers are an essential element of an independent life and make an important contribution towards the promotion of the economy.
Companies are granted a one-off subsidy in the form of 25 percent of the total costs of relevant investments they have made (and already netted out) as recognition of their efforts to create accessibility. This contribution towards costs from the government is capped and can be awarded for investments of at least €1000 in the creation of accessibility which have already been netted-out. The contribution to costs amounts to a maximum of €2,500 (for an investment of €1,000 or more) per company and campaign period. Applications for subsidies should be made using a standardised form which can be downloaded from the website of the Sozialministeriumservice and submitted by e-mail. When making an application in relation to constructional investments which have been made, companies must confirm that they adhere to the Austrian standards series ÖNORM B 1600 to B 1603.