Attendance and participation by members the public at government meetings is a basic and essential part of democracy. To exclude people with reduced mobility is illegal, discriminatory and anti democratic. Everyone’s voice counts!
In Portugal a law was passed in 2006 that required buildings where public meetings are held to be accessible to people with disabilities. Old buildings had a deadline of February 2017 to comply with this legislation. To read the law please click https://dre.pt/dre/detalhe/decreto-lei/163-2006-538624
We wanted to find out if the buildings and rooms in the Algarve where public meetings are held are complying with the law and are accessible to people with reduced mobility. So we conducted a survey.
The Algarve has sixteen councils, each council has a Câmara Municipal that is the body that represents the entire council and it also has Municipal Assembly that represents the population and neighborhoods of the largest city in the council. These bodies have meetings that are open to the public to listen and speak.
Our survey did not ask or address whether these meetings provide accommodation for people with hearing or vision impairments. We hope to conduct another survey on this in the near future.
On May 17th 2021 we sent an email in Portuguese to fifteen of the sixteen Câmara Municipal’s and municipal assemblies asking if the meetings are accessible. Note: We excluded Lagos from the survey as we have an ongoing legal process with them to bring the Municipality Assembly into compliance.
Read more here:
In addition to documenting the responses we also noted the number of days it took to respond and if there was no response. After ten working days we sent a follow up reminder email asking for a response.
We received two responses on the same day, credit for quickest response (within an hour) goes to the Municipal Assembly of Silves who informed us that the meetings are accessible and that one the elected members was a wheelchair user. Also credit to Faro informed us on the same day that both the Câmara and Municipal Assembly meeting were accessible.
As of close of business on June 7th (16 business days after the first email was sent) we received responses from all Câmara and Municipal Assemblies with the exception of Loule and Olhao who failed to respond.
In the Algarve at least six of the Câmara meeting rooms are not accessible to people with reduced mobility; they are Alcoutim, Aljezur, Monchique, Silves, Tavira, and Vila do Bispo. Due to the lack of response it is unclear whether the meetings of the Câmara of Loule and Olhao are accessible. Note: Tavira has stated there is a project underway to install and elevator to provide access.
Full survey result here:
In the Algarve at least five of Municipal assembly meeting rooms are not accessible to people with reduced mobility; they are Alcoutim, Aljezur, Lagos, Vila do Bispo and Monchique. Again Loule and Olhao failed to respond. Note: In Portimao it may be necessary to contact the municipality in advance to use an elevating platform.
Full survey results here:
Muncipal Assembly Survey
In some cases the replies mentioned that the lack of accessibility was was due to the age of the structures where the meetings are held. We note that the law requiring accessibility was passed in 2006 and compliance required by 2017. There has been plenty of time to adapt the buildings. If the old buildings cannot be adapted to allow equal access by all citizens and residents of Portugal, the meetings should be moved to an accessible facility that can.
We hope you will find the results informative in terms of accessibility to government meetings and also the transparency and responsiveness of these elected bodies in answering a basic inquiry.