CALRE Award “Stars of Europe” 2022

🇪🇸 Cortes de Castilla – La Mancha
First Spanish Interparliamentary Forum on Disability and Universal Accessibility
01/01/2022 – 11/06/2022

Type of initiative


Short description of the initiative

The Firsts Spanish Interparliamentary Forum on Disability and Universal Accessibility is an initiative of the Parliament of Castilla-La Mancha due to which most legislative assemblies of the country have met with the aim of presenting and analysing the measures adopted in their respective parliamentary chambers, in order to facilitate access to them for persons with disabilities, both in terms of mobility, communication and understanding. Similarly, as a result of this initiative, all of the participating legislative assemblies have undertaken a series of commitments, enunciated in the “Toledo Declaration”, which establish a roadmap to be followed in the coming years, to ensure accessibility in parliaments, the participation in parliaments of persons with disabilities and their representative organisations, to encourage the creation of parliamentary bodies dedicated to discussing and legislating on the social reality of persons with disabilities (The Toledo Declaration is attached, which lists all the commitments made in this area).
This First Spanish Interparliamentary Forum on Disability and Universal Accessibility is a novel and unique experience, which has been carried out in collaboration with the Senate, as the Chamber of Territorial Representation in Spain, as well as CERMI Spain, as binder of the country’s disability associations. This initiative has reached the consensus of the country’s parliaments, aware that accessibility is the first necessary and indispensable condition for the exercise of the rights of persons with disabilities, including citizen, social and political participation. More accessible parliaments-despite the difficulties this entails in many cases, when the Legislative Chambers are located in historic buildings, listed as Cultural Interests- are essential to advance democracy and participation. The greater accessibility was, the better democratic quality, hence the importance of this successful experience in Spain, being recognized and also extrapolated to the European context.

Main features of the initiative

The Spanish Interparliamentary Forum on Disability and Universal Accessibility is the conclusion of a previous work carried out by Cortes of Castilla-La Mancha, in which meetings have been held with persons with disabilities, with the entities representing them and also several regional parliaments of Spain, with the aim of drawing up a common agenda of common needs, activities and commitments that lead to the improvement of the social, public and political participation of persons with disabilities, that unfortunately felt their rights diminished because of the existence of physical, mental or social barriers. Therefore, the initiative of a participatory process and active listening to the main actors involved ins created and establishes the Legislative Chambers at their service, in order to advance in the development of their rights and, therefore, in democratic quality.
This First Interparliamentary Forum also has the insignificant characteristic of having achieved agreement and consensus in legislative assemblies governed by different parties, achieving an important consensus on disability and accessibility that allows us to assume that there will be considerable progress in this area in the coming years.
The initiative, in addition to the exchange of experiences between different parliaments and the adoption of future commitments, has enabled us to draw up a diagnosis of the current reality of the Spanish legislative chambers in the arear of accessibility, since a questionnaire was sent to all the regional parliaments of Spain, collecting information on the measures taken, the main legislative initiatives adopted in this field and the existing participation bodies. (An annex is attached with the questionnaire).
Another relevant feature of this Forum is the question that it is not finalized with its materialization, but its influence is projected towards the future and will materialise over the next few years, since it has emerged an agenda of common commitments that will be implemented along next years.
It also requires main mention the fact that, due to this initiative, regional parliaments have committed to establishing systems of shared knowledge, support and mutual interparliamentary accompaniment, so that the measures adopted in one legislative assembly on disability and universal accessibility can be replicated in others in an easier way.
The organisation of the First Interparliamentary Forum of Spain on Disability and Accessibility is just one of the several measures launched by the Parliament of Castilla-La Mancha to advance in accessibility, all of which have been carried out through coordination with disability organizations and considering the characteristics of the parliamentary building, classified as an Asset of Cultural Interest, so that all the actions must have an approval of the Heritage Commission.
Even so, important actions have taken place throughout the current legislature, which have made it possible to facilitate accessibility to persons with disabilities. Also, the plenary hall is accessible at both the level of seats, the speaker´s rostrum and the Bureau. Measures have also been taken facilitate access of persons who are blind, deaf, or who have reduced mobility or use wheelchairs, ostomised persons, of reduced height, as well as people with intellectual or cognitive disabilities. These measures have been carried out in both physical and virtual spaces. One main measure that we consider relevant is the adaptation to easy reading of the legislation adopted in the regional parliament, a measure that is useful for people with intellectual disabilities as well as for elderly people with cognitive impairment or people with difficulties in the handling of language.
All these measures have been adopted with the aim of trying to ensure that Parliament, which is the place where all people in Castilla-La Mancha are represented, allows access and participation of as many people as possible, without physical, emotional or social barriers limiting it. Considering Parliament is everyone’s house, everyone should feel that they can enter their home and feel welcomed.

Role of the assembly in the success of the initiative

The Legislative Assembly of Castilla-La Mancha is the promoter and organiser of Spain’s I Interparliamentary Forum on Disability and Universal Accessibility. This initiative arises from the conviction that it is necessary to advance the parliamentary agenda in this matter in order to turn parliaments into exemplary entities that encourage other entities, both public and private, to improve accessibility.
Accordingly, the first measure adopted at the beginning of the current Legislature by the Presidency of the Courts of Castilla-La Mancha was to subtitle all plenary sessions in order to promote access to the content for deaf persons. Subsequently, an Accessibility Plan was commissioned, in which it was marked the way forward in this area, along with permanent meetings with persons with disabilities and with the entities representing them. As our Legislative Assembly progressed in this area, it felt necessary to know the initiatives launched in other parliaments as well as the way in which they had overcome the difficulties of finding themselves in a historic and protected building. Consequently, this initiative arises to hold the First Interparliamentary Forum of Spain on Disability and Universal Accessibility.
Thus, the holding of this Forum has the support of COPREPA (the Conference of Presidencies of Regional Parliaments of Spain) which encouraged all parliaments to participate in this initiative as it considers it useful, necessary and adapted to the needs and concerns of parliamentarism and social reality.
Thereby, the Cortes of Castilla-La Mancha have been the organising institution of the initiative presented to these awards and, therefore, we have been responsible for holding preparatory meetings with regional parliaments, with entities and persons with disabilities, for drawing up the questionnaire and the diagnosis of the current reality of the Spanish Legislative Chambers regarding disability and accessibility and for carrying out the work necessary to reach consensus among all parliaments on “Declaration of Toledo”, that is the manifesto with the commitments approved at the Forum and that materialized the uniqueness and importance of the initiative, which already has the recognition and gratitude of the disability sector (enclosed letter) and a wide distribution among the media (press dossier attached).

European orientation of the initiative

The International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, adopted by the United Nation on 13th December 2006, represented a key normative and visibility advance for persons with disabilities at an international level, which establishes the obligation for the states to take the initiative. Spain signed this Convention and its Optional Protocol, so since 3th May 2008 this international figure of legislation has been fully part of the Spanish legal system.
The European Union also ratified the treaty in January 2011, thus becoming the first comprehensive human rights treaty ratified by the European Union, the aim of which is to ensure that persons with disabilities can develop their rights in terms of equality with all other citizens.
Thereby, the initiative that we present to these recognitions is aligned with the objectives assumed by Europe and Spain as a member of the European Union, aiming the advance of this pioneering and advanced legislation.
The First Interparliamentary Forum of Spain on Disability and Universal Accessibility offers practical tools, exchange of knowledge and experiences, institutional and technical collaboration and interrelationship with social entities and the third sector that facilitate the translation of disability regulations to the day to day of our Legislative Assemblies. It is a way to commit in order of being fundamental actors and facilitators of the necessary transformation to enable people with disabilities to fully exercise their rights in parliaments, which could become speakers for other public and private entities to join this initiative.
The experience initiated in Spain is replicable in Europe and it would desirable that it was replicated. It is also based on the European Union principles and on the pillars of equality and human rights and is designed to make the regions a tool for transformation, change and social progress that could be extrapolated to other institutional levels.