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Ensuring accessibility for everyone

Ensuring accessibility for everyone

Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes

Hustinx Prize goes to disability law expert

MAASTRICHT. Riding a bus, using a tablet, accessing a public building; most people perform these activities without even thinking about it. For people with disabilities, though, they may be obstacles that are impossible to overcome.  As of 2008, United Nations law establishes the right to accessibility. But what does this mean in practice? What kind of laws and policies are needed? It’s this legal framework that Edmond Hustinx Prize winner, Andrea Broderick, will research.

Broderick became interested in disability law when she was working as a lawyer in Galway, Ireland. “A good friend of mine – who is a wheelchair user – started a master in disability law and I decided to join her.” Broderick became passionate about her research in the field and came to Maastricht in 2012 to work within the Marie Curie network, entitled DREAM (Disability Rights Expanding Accessible Markets). She completed her PhD on disability equality law within that network. “The field had (and still does have) a lot of momentum after the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, because it requires states parties, including the EU, to make wide-ranging alterations to the built environment, transport, information and communications technology and goods and services. Countries were investing in both policies and research.”

Although several countries have already implemented laws and policies seeking to ensure accessibility, there’s still much work to be done. “It’s a very complex issue because it’s so wide-ranging, from public transport to buildings to ICT services. What I want to set up, as a first step, is the legal framework of indicators (a human rights measurement scale) that countries can adapt to their own situation. I want to provide tools to guide them in translating the UN convention’s obligations into laws and policies.”

Broderick also wants to examine issues of monitoring and data collection. “Research is still very much needed in that area. Have laws and policies resulted in increased accessibility? It’s also important to know what other states are doing and to share good practices.”

Broderick intends to use her Hustinx Prize money to go on a research visit to work with Professor Anna Lawson at Leeds University. “She has just received a large grant for a study in the same field. We will look at how our research can mutually benefit each other, and we will decide on our exact focus for the research visit.” After working with Lawson, Broderick hopes to go on a second research visit to the United States.

In the coming years, Broderick intends to conduct country and municipal studies. “I would love to do qualitative studies in very diverse countries and municipalities, more specifically. Ideally, I would take a city that’s exemplary of the situation in the country and study it as a microcosm. How do the policies work on the ground? How high is the bar set? Are the accessibility standards voluntary or mandatory? If they’re voluntary – is the private sector picking them up?  If they’re mandatory – how are they enforced?”

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