Towards an integrated accessibility policy

More and more solutions for accessibility issues are being advanced. Policy choices regarding accessibility are increasingly linked to other challenges in the living environment. How do we arrive at an integrated accessibility policy?
Photo: man sitting before his bike with laptop on his lap - Ollyy

Background and question to be addressed

The Dutch House of Representatives asked the Council to advise on how to achieve a more integrated approach to the accessibility issue in practice. The questions that the House has put to the Council are: What institutional obstacles exist within government organisations and how can these be removed? Are there different obstacles in relation to national, regional and cross-border mobility challenges? How can a comprehensive assessment be guaranteed in the various assessment instruments? How can the House of Representatives influence this process?

This is the Council's response to the request made by the House, with the following key question:

How can a more comprehensive assessment of accessibility challenges and solutions be achieved in policymaking? What are the main obstacles that stand in the way of such a comprehensive assessment for institutions in general and the House of Representatives in particular and how can these obstacles be overcome?

Explanation

There is a growing realisation that an "integrated" approach to accessibility policy is desirable. An integrated approach goes beyond enabling efficient travel by car, bicycle or public transport. This approach is alive to new possibilities and innovations in the field of mobility. Consideration is given to spatial planning solutions and the idea of spreading mobility throughout the day. The policy involves keeping an eye out for digital alternatives to physical travel. An integrated approach also takes account of other challenges in the living environment, such as urbanisation, safety and climate. In our advisory report to the House, the Council makes a number of recommendations to government and parliament on how to achieve an integrated, balanced accessibility policy.

The three main recommendations are:

  • Aim for broad welfare: as a benchmark throughout the entire accessibility policy cycle, including visions and assessment instruments. The Council recommends that facilitating mobility should no longer be regarded as the dominant principle of accessibility policy. A well-considered vision, backed up by political decision-making, is needed to set the goals of accessibility policy and determine how they can best be achieved. As far as the Council is concerned, the impact on broad welfare should be the benchmark throughout the entire policy cycle, from vision development to implementation. This means updating the assessment instruments and the way they are used. The conceptual framework and system of social cost-benefit analyses should be used at an earlier stage and more consistently in decision-making processes. The new national market and capacity analysis, to be published in the summer of 2021, must take account of all aspects relevant to broad welfare. It is important to prevent this analysis from acquiring the status of a priority list for infrastructural solutions, as has been the case in the past.
     
  • Take a broad view: on all available solutions for accessibility issues. The Council calls on government and parliament to include all available solutions for improving accessibility when considering policy. Changing social preferences and technological developments make this necessary. Besides "classic" infrastructural measures aimed at tackling traffic capacity problems, other promising solutions, such as influencing behaviour, spreading mobility over time, finding digital accessibility alternatives and encouraging smart spatial design, should be considered as equivalents when making policy choices. The rapid development of digital alternatives to physical travel, such as online working from home or education, must be taken into account in policy without delay, in cooperation with private partners. In addition, national spatial policy can be used to focus more strongly on the impact of urbanisation on accessibility.
     
  • Adopt a common view: nationwide and with the regions, based on a multi-year programmatic approach and the funding of accessibility policy. In order to make choices based on a comprehensive assessment, the three ministries involved must view accessibility policy as a joint, coherent challenge at national level: Infrastructure and Water Management (for the mobility theme), Interior and Kingdom Relations (for the urbanisation and spatial design theme) and Economic Affairs and Climate Policy (for the digital accessibility theme). A shared strategy and policy agenda is needed to form a basis from which to allocate responsibilities and financial resources for the accessibility policy. The implementation of carefully coordinated urbanisation and accessibility strategies must not be hampered by a sectoral project approach or by the interests of individual organisations. The Council believes that area-specific programme management linked to joint programme funding will form the basis for improving ways of embedding the integrated approach in the collaboration, both nationally and between the national government and the regions. This will also require a broadening of the financial basis for the integrated accessibility policy over the coming period.

The House of Representatives has an important part to play throughout the policy cycle in achieving a more integrated accessibility policy. The Council has two specific recommendations:

  • Make more use of the available parliamentary options for influencing policy.

The House can make better use of its options for influencing policy by closely questioning the government and focusing its debate on the comprehensive nature of the principles and proposals for accessibility policy. If required, the House can also play an initiating role, for example by issuing an initiative memorandum. The effective use of these scrutiny options requires the House to form an opinion about the role that accessibility policy can play in promoting broad welfare. It also requires the House to ensure that the assessment frameworks and decision-making instruments used are properly geared towards making comprehensive assessments.

  • Parliamentary attention should be more focused on the relationship between the impact, possible solutions and the administrative organisation of accessibility policy.

When exercising its scrutinising role, the House should focus less on the results of individual projects and measures and concentrate more on the impact and achievement of the goals of accessibility policy as a whole.

This also means: assessing government policy more explicitly in terms of the connections it makes with other relevant substantive policy areas, such as spatial policy, urbanisation and digitalisation, and in terms of cooperation between ministries and tiers of government. The Council believes that a more integrated accessibility policy would also benefit from the regular organisation of joint meetings of the standing committees for the Infrastructure and Water Management and Interior and Kingdom Relations ministries.

Publication date

On 10 February, the Council presented its advisory report, "Towards an integrated accessibility policy", to the Dutch House of Representatives . Member of Parliament Rutger Schonis (D66) accepted the advisory report on behalf of the House of Representatives online.

Further information

If you would like to comment on this topic or require more information, please contact Luc Boot, project leader, at luc.boot@rli.nl or on +31 (0)6-10577495.