Accessibility is or may be relevant to all of us. Have you ever broken your leg or your arm? Are you protect ed from such an accident? Are you raising young children and using a stroller? Are you taking care of an elderly relative? Do you have any pets? When travelling, do you encounter people who speak a different language and don’t understand your mother tongue? Do you take notice of each and every sign in a healthcare institution and are all of them understandable? All of us, either temporarily or long-term, face some sort of barriers and few Lithuanians or visitors manage to avoid them.
Why is it important?
Also, the world population is now getting rapidly older, and the elderly have a bigger risk to become disabled. According to statistical indicators, the number of people that are sick with such chronic illnesses as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, or cancer, or have mental disorders, is constantly increasing. The physical or emotional issues of a person may be temporary or permanent, and it, therefore, becomes a problem both in daily life and in old age. According to the newest data from the Ministry of Social Security and Labor, in 2017, 242 thousand Lithuanians were registered as persons with some sort of disability. This number is equal to the combined number of people living in Klaipeda and Siauliai. Although the numbers suggest that, in comparison to 2012, the number of persons with disabilities is getting smaller, when the emigration of Lithuanians and the decreasing birth rate are taken into account it becomes clear that the percentage of people with disabilities remains the same and in the future, as the population in Lithuania decreases, the percentage of citizens with disabilities may be even larger.
Sociologists suggest that the factors making persons with disabilities actually disabled are the national social system and the society they are living in, rather than the physical and psychological impairments themselves.
Sociologists suggest that the factors making persons with disabilities actually disabled are the national social system and the society they are living in, rather than the physical and psychological impairments themselves. What is more, the public infrastructure is geared towards people without disabilities and people who do have them are not included in the social environment which is acceptable to healthy people.
Almost a quarter million Lithuanians can no longer fully use services and products or participate in society and are forced to limit themselves. It is important for us to work towards better accessibility, as it improves the quality of life, decreases isolation from society, ensures more independence and better conditions for social integration. It also leads to better health and lower expenditure. Better accessibility allows persons with disabilities to live independently and decreases the need for specialised services, which is beneficial for all members of society. People living in an accessible environment that is comfortable for all can take care of themselves and live independently longer. Accessibility promotes active aging and decreases the necessity for the society to take care of older people.
Additionally, reduced accessibility prevents organisations and institutions from reaching a larger audience, potential clients and viewers, customers and service users, thus the quality of the provided services does not improve, and neither does the potential or turnover. Better accessibility usually improves the quality of services for everyone, including healthy people, and this is important for all existing and future clients and partners.
Improving accessibility also improves communication, as it becomes more understandable and convenient. The more flexible a service is and the more opportunities are awarded to clients, the better the chance that the service will fulfil the needs of various clients. A good reputation is integral to the success of a business – a happy client will gladly inform other people about your services and invite new clients. It has been noticed in the culture, tourism, and hospitality services that consumers decide which service to use ahead of time – they read the feedback, evaluation, and comments concerning the service from previous clients on various websites.
When an organization offers a little contribution towards improving accessibility, it has a negative effect on international competitiveness and reduces opportunities to attract a bigger audience. There are 80 million people with disabilities in Europe. All of these people have the same needs in terms of their interest in culture, other countries, and various services.
When an organization offers a little contribution towards improving accessibility, it has a negative effect on international competitiveness and reduces opportunities to attract a bigger audience. There are 80 million people with disabilities in Europe. All of these people have the same needs in terms of their interest in culture, other countries, and various services. Tourists aged 65 and older are the only customer segment to be recently growing in Europe and the expenditure of these tourists with time on their hands has increased by 33 percent during this decade. This is an audience that is necessary for you – cultural operators, businesses, sectors of various services.
It is also important to keep in mind that improving accessibility in the field of employment and job placement is very beneficial to society as a whole – there are more workers and talent in companies and a decreased dependence of persons with disabilities on the welfare system, thus allowing more people to contribute to the economic growth of Lithuania.*
*prepared in accordance with the publication: Tutlytė J., Skrandis-Banaitis, G. Kaunas for all: designing happiness, 2019, VšĮ “Kaunas 2022”.