Saechsische Schweiz (Germany)
The test-site Saxon Switzerland is a region in the south-east of Saxony, in the east of Germany. The region is located between the city of Dresden and the Czech Republic and comprises of 12 cities and 13 municipalities. The total area is about 887.89 km². The population density is about 155 inhabitants per km² and the number of inhabitants is about 135,000.
The economy was characterised by machinery and plant engineering, metal processing, chemical industry and polymer processing and vehicle manufacturing. Today most of the economy is generated by tourism. Tourist attractions are the Saxon Switzerland National Park with numerous hiking trails, climbing in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, and cycling on the popular Elbe Cycle Path (about 40 kilometres of the path runs through the region). The region has a great variety of transport options, especially local public transportation: train, bus and boat / ferry. The bus network is comparably well developed.
Actual state of accessibility-work
Saxon Switzerland was selected as there were already several activities ongoing to improve accessibility for locals and visitors and the county administration is open to the topic which is high on their agenda for the future (also due to some anticipated demographic changes).
There is no fixed organisational structure for all aspects of accessibility. Instead, some aspects are covered by private actors (such as public transport and tourism operators), others by the county administration or the municipalities themselves (e.g. construction and maintenance of public spaces/roads), others by semi-private associations (responsible for land-use-planning).
In Saxon Switzerland PRM are represented by the county’s commissioner for disabled people and the Disabled Advisory Committee of the county. There are some PRM associations active in the region but most of them are quite small and of very limited size and manpower. Where possible, representatives of these associations were asked to be (associated) ISEMOA team members.
The actual state of accessibility work is somehow ambivalent. Whereas in the tourism (and partly) public transport sectors accessibility has been is of high importance for a long time with some achievements, accessibility is a very new topic in the county’s administrative responsibilities and working processes.
In advance TU Dresden as auditor met with the contact persons as representatives of the region. ISEMOA team members were selected with some user representatives, heads of different county administration departments and representatives from the tourism and public transport and regional planning associations.
The expectations of the region where: To include many stakeholders and get to know who is responsible for what, to assess the current state of accessibility in the region, implement accessibility as a major topic in administrative processes and transport services (with clear distribution of tasks and responsibilities) and monitor the progress.
In a very open and frank environment the ISEMOA team discussed the results of the self-assessment questionnaire and the diverging evaluation by the team members. The option of having a site visit was highly welcomed. The auditor organised a site visit to Bad Schandau (the main tourist town in the region) with a guided tour by the mayor presenting the results of long-term engagement for improving accessibility. The site visit was accompanied by the press (that later reported positively about the ISEMOA project and the implementation process).
In the strategy meeting all team members discussed very intensively about the next steps to further improve accessibility in the region, respective responsibilities and deadlines. The result is a very comprehensive and detailed action plan with most measures to be implemented by the end of the year (with most outcomes in public transport services and a clearer internal responsibilities structure in the county administration). All members welcomed the joint meetings of the ISEMOA team and would like to keep that framework for further meetings.
Quotes of local stakeholders
„The number of agents at the meeting and their different views on the issue extended our knowledge concerning the work on accessibility” (Representative of people with disabilities, who participated in the Saxon Switzerland ISEMOA-team)
“I learned from the hints of the effected persons and to focus on the whole (combined) way of travel.” (Representative of the Upper Elbe Regional Transport (transport consortium), transport planning)
“I have been presented a new point of view.” (Representative of the Administrative District of Saxon Switzerland and Osterzgebirge, Department Public transport)
“I learned about responsibilities of which I didn’t even know existed.” (Representative of the tourism association of Saxon Switzerland)
“Earlier the focus was on accessibility for wheelchair users only, but now hearing impaired persons and people with damaged eyesight are considered as well.” (Representative of the regional public transport provider)
“I think there is a chance for improvement [of accessibility], because of the cooperation of different agents in the ISEMOA team.” (Representative of the Administrative District of Saxon Switzerland and Osterzgebirge, Department Economic Development and Investment)
“The time for this issue is now at least because of demographic changes.”(Representative of the Administrative District of Saxon Switzerland and Osterzgebirge, Department district roads)
“ISEMOA connects agents and effected people which results in additional information and a new balance of priorities.” (Representative of the Upper Elbe Regional Transport (transport consortium), transport planning)