Botkyrka municipality's road to accessibility
Botkyrka municipality in Sweden actively works with accessibility. Among other things, they hired Funka for training their staff in publishing accessible content. Ann Bjellert, disabilities strategist at Botkyrka municipality, tells us about the municipality's path towards becoming more accessible, both in terms of the physical environment and in its communication.
Botkyrka municipality works from a disability perspective. How do those who live in Botkyrka notice that?
The Botkyrka residents notices it by a gradual increase of accessibility and usability. Not only in terms of physical environment but also in other areas such as information and communication. While we are actively working to identify and remove obstacles, we avoid creating new ones using by universal design. The municipality's procurement policy states that all procurement should be based on the universal design approach. A concrete example is when our citizens visit municipal activities. There is a decision in the municipality that all signs, from the entrance to a municipal building, should be accessible with braille, tactile letters and symbols. The color contrast of text and background is also customized to make it readable for more people.
You work as a disabilities strategist. What does that mean?
I work at strategic level to develop, drive on development, support and follow up on the issues of rights of persons with disabilities within the municipality's processes. I work with most fields of activity so that the equality and functional rights perspective is included in planning and implementation.
Botkyrka has chosen to use Funka for many years. How has it been important for the municipality?
Knowledge of legal requirements, guidelines and the importance of accessibility and usability has increased within the organization. For example, that our web publishers have knowledge about publishing accessible content is extremely valuable so our external site is user friendly for all Botkyrka residents. We feel confident that if problems arise, it's quick to get tips and advice from the experts at Funka.
What are the biggest challenges in the municipality's work with accessibility?
We need to be even better at doing right from the beginning through universal design. It requires increased awareness and knowledge at all levels throughout the organization. Right now, we are focusing on future legislation regarding our website, intranet, apps, and published documents. Another challenge for our web communication is to find a form and a way of working that can make our communications accessible and user-friendly to everyone. Our Communication Officers would then not need to publish multiple text versions and we would get sites and services characterized by straightforward, simple and easy-to-understand information. At present, our Communication Officers are expected to publish many different versions of a text. According to our guidelines, we will write clear, easy-to-read and, if necessary, make the information available in different language versions. All in order to live up to the municipality's strategy and guidelines for an equal Botkyrka.
What are you most proud of with Botkyrka municipality's accessibility work?
That the accessibility perspective has increased from being a users’ question to becoming a citizen's question. The perspective now forms a natural part of most of Botkyrka municipality's areas of activity, such as procurement, information and communication, democracy development and physical environment. The accessibility aspect has gradually become so wider than mere sidewalks and heavy doors. A concrete example among many is the development of the municipality's signage manual. Initially, we were helped by Funka, then we invested in extra resources, both financial and personal, to find a good level of accessibility. With our accessibility requirements, sign production becomes slightly more expensive. It is a cost that is approved by the municipal government, which feels very good.
How accessible is Botkyrka municipality in five years?
Then I hope and believe that the work has become even more effective, for example through increased knowledge at all levels within the organization. In the years to come, we will jointly tear down the obstacles that exist today. Some obstacles are to be torn down because the law says we are obliged to do so. Most obstacles will be torn down in any case, because it is human and inclusive. In five years, we have also learned to set even clearer accessibility requirements for our procurements so that it will be right from the start.
How does Botkyrka's vision of accessibility in another five years sound, that is ten years ahead?
Then our municipality slogan "Far from moderate" is more appropriate in terms of accessibility. A disability will not be a disability and all Botkyrka residents, regardless of their ability to function, will be able to participate on equal terms.