Programme for helping those with limited mobility integrate into society gets underway

Disabled people in the Czech Republic were always neglected during the Communist regime. They were, in fact, kept away from "normal" society and most of them lived in special homes. This has been changing gradually, and a civic association called Mobilis has come up with a bold plan for improving public transport throughout the Czech Republic, in order to provide problem-free access for those with limited mobility. Alena Skodova has the details:

I spoke with the director of the association Mobilis, Dr. Tatiana Sindelarova, who explained to me why they had decided to pursue this project:

"The main idea behind the project is to integrate people with limited mobility into society, using improved local and regional transport systems, which will be linked in the future to the Trans-European transport network. This new infrastructure must be made accessible to everyone. That's how we perceive the priority of free movement - for us this does not just mean being able to travel freely abroad. It's free movement for all people in all aspects, so that they can go shopping, be able to arrange their lives."

But the programme is not just for the disabled. In the Czech Republic, as elsewhere in developed countries, the population is getting older, and the number of retirees is growing fast. As Dr. Sindelarova told me, in the Czech Republic 18 percent of people are aged over 60, and this figure will grow to around 20 percent. Also, 12 percent of the population have health problems, 6 percent are children aged under 6 and mothers with prams, and 1 percent are pregnant women. All these - a total of 37 percent of the population - have reduced mobility and need help. This new project has also been launched in order to bring the country's transport system up to EU standards. At a Conference of European Transport Ministers in Warsaw in 1999, the Union expressed its willingness to help:

"We were told that if we come up with a project that will become part of the Trans-European transport network, if our transport is accessible to all and ecological, the Union of European Transport Companies is prepared to contribute up to 70 percent of all our investments."

The programme is currently in its initial phase, with work underway in the Usti nad Labem and Ostrava regions, which were chosen because of their strategic transport significance. The first step is to map out the transport system, and the programme enjoys support from the Health Ministry, the Economic Committee of the Lower House and the Czech Fund for Transport Infrastructure.