The accessibility task force established by the Government Office found at its first meeting that the Estonian society should be accessible by 2035 and that rapid steps in that direction can be taken immediately.
"We should first subject to a rapid review the fields that are shaping our environment on a day-to-day basis, as often changes do not require funds but are organizational in nature," chair of the task force Keit Parts said in a press release published by the Government Office.
"For instance, construction of roads and buildings that is happening every day should not create more of non-accessible environment," Parts said, describing a general increase in society's awareness about the importance of accessibility as critical in implementing change.
According to the task force, achieving accessibility by 2035 is an ambitious goal, the first steps towards which will be set out by the task force over the next year and a half. The biggest sets of topics for the task force are buildings, roads, transport and e-environments.
The head of the task force said that the state must keep in mind already now that according to the population forecast, there will be 100,000 fewer people of working age in Estonia by 2050 and as many more people over the age of 65.
"If the society is not accessible and easy to use for the elderly, children, families with children, people with special needs and many others, this will have a strong impact on our country's wallet in the future and we may not be in a position to compensate people for restrictions on movement from the budgets of social protection and other policies," Parts said.
"Hence both the state and the private sector must become better aware of the specifics of their clientele today and a couple of tens of years from now, which is increasingly important in an aging society," Parts said.
In society space is fully accessible and goods and services well available to people in the middle part of their lifespan, from ages 18 to 65. Among age groups beyond that and among special needs people there is a big percentage of those experiencing restrictions on their day-to-day activities due to their size, age and other factors not enabling them to be full-fledged members of he society.
According to the task force, accessibility solutions are not expensive if one thinks about them from the very start of the creation of a building or a service, whereas redesigning the existing physical environment is the most expensive.
The task force will start work in the form of work groups and involve experts of all relevant fields in discussions.
The creation of the task force has been set out in the government's action program for 2019-2023 and the deadline for the fulfilment of the tasks of the task force is July 2021.
Different ministries, state institutions and representatives of municipalities and the third sector will take part in the work of the task force, the convening and coordinating authority of which is the Government Office.
The government tasked the Government Office with establishing the task force in 2011.
Editor: Helen Wright