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Accessibility is considered a priority in a modern-day state administration. As an important precondition for achieving broader societal goals of social inclusion and welfare, accessibility has also become a clear-cut administration issue.
Rising demands for accessible administrations – services, building, workplaces – but also for more equitable opportunities for getting jobs, including civil service employment, result from the fast-paced socio-economic and technological changes, which in turn require to accommodate as many needs of the population as possible. The COVID-19 pandemic outbreak is only one, but largely important example of how suddenly such needs for fast adaptations occur.
On their EU accession path, the countries in the Western Balkan region must demonstrate that basic accessibility principles are sufficiently secured, as part of a broader, but fundamental public administration reform. According to international assessments that measure the compliance with such principles, the work is far from done – the legislative and policy frameworks are in place, the digital services accelerated, but mechanisms for improving the accessibility of services are weak across the region. The results of the surveys of civil servants and civil society organisations (CSO) implemented by the WeBER initiative, analysed in this brief, tell a similar story of weak guarantees for accessibility of state administrations. Specifically, their reflections on the opportunities for accessing civil service jobs, workplaces, facilities, and services, indicate that those most vulnerable have fewer chances and struggle the most.
Measuring perceptions has its limitations, from sampling errors, bias, to difficulties in capturing nuances. Also, survey results are largely affected by respondents’ motivation and availability to participate. As such, they should be interpreted with caution and used as a stimulus for further research. However, civil servants and CSOs are among the key actors from whom to obtain feedback regarding the application of the accessibility principle in practice. This is due to their respective roles as service and information providers to the public, in case of the former, and active participants in public affairs, especially as voluntary service providers to different population categories, in case of the latter. Perception data alone cannot be used to remedy policy implementation but can additionally help to spotlight potential gaps. If legal and policy mechanisms largely fail to achieve their intended purpose, which is to allow unrestricted access to administration, it results not only in a waste of resources but also in the deprivation of different societal groups of their fundamental rights.