Järve: Tallinn cares for people with special needs

Senior specialist of the Services and Support Sector of the Tallinn Social Welfare and Health Care Department, Jüri Järve said that cooperation with the City of Tallinn has been very good, and especially after conclusion of a cooperation agreement between three departments of the city (Urban Planning, Health Care, and Municipal Engineering Services) and independent organizations of disabled persons in 2010. All construction and renovation projects undergo the inspection for access of disabled persons.

“During five years, nearly 600 different projects have gone through the inspection," said Järve in the presentation made by the working group “A City without Barriers to all" consisting of the members of the Mobility Forum of the network of European cities EUROCITIES. 

The main problem in making the urban space of Tallinn more accessible, according to Järve, is the fact that although the regulation and the requirements have been in force for 13 years, their implementation will depend on the good will of the builder and designer. Due to this fact, in 2010 was adopted a cooperation agreement with the city government, as a result of which control over the accessibility of publicly used buildings has changed significantly for the better. 

"While it may seem odd that the law was there, but was not met, now I can say with confidence that things are going better," said Järve. As an example of non-compliance with the accessibility rules, among others Järve provided in his presentation, was the example of the A. Le Coq Arena, which does have an elevator shaft, but no elevator and the events can be accessed only via steep stairs. 

"It is now a well-established system in which building design coordination and review of the finished object is one organic whole," said Järve and highlighted as a recent triumph the renovated entrance of St. John’s Church, which is equipped with a ramp, is to ensure access for people with reduced mobility. 

Designers and builders may not notice all the nuances necessary to ensure accessibility, so in addition to the reading of the draft, revision of the real object it is also important.  Mirrors or hand dryers placed even ten centimeters too high may be unusable for a person in a wheelchair. 

Järve also gave the example of the Estonian History Museum, in which originally the aid rails in disabled toilets were mounted vertically, making them useless. After the negotiations, this detail that had been overlooked by builders was corrected, proving the need for a thorough review of the objects. 

Although Järve stressed the good cooperation between the City of Tallinn and organizations of people with disabilities, in the situation there is still much room for improvement, especially in the Old Town. "In Estonia, the situation is the worst as compared to Latvia and Lithuania, because our heritage conservation opposes changes most fiercely," he said. “We still have a long way to go in improving accessibility and keeping historical values." 

According to Järve, situations occur where regulations are just blatantly ignored in the case of structures and renovations of the Old Town, and the disability committee is not even contacted for review.