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Short description / Current status and future steps / Lessons learned:
= Case description =
The project “Services without barriers” aims to improve public service delivery for citizens with disabilities by adding different channels for public service delivery through technology and other innovative ideas, thus promoting accessibility for them.
In the past, individuals who needed access to services faced long queues, multiple visits, hard-to-find offices that lacked service windows, red tape, delays, arbitrary denial of services, and frequent requests for bribes. Amongst all, people with disabilities (wheelchair, deaf and blind people) were those who suffered the most. The main problem was the access to public services, begging from the exterior infrastructure to the interior one. In addition, no information on most of public services was available in a comprehensive format, whether being simple to understand for deaf and blind people as well.
This is why, since 2014, the Government of Albania has pursued a path breaking reform that reinvents the way public administration delivers services to its citizens, which relies heavily on innovation and the use of information technology to improve standards, procedures, and the organization of service delivery. The Agency for the Delivery of Integrated Services in Albania (ADISA) is the responsible authority for improving the quality of public services in Albania, based on Law no. 13, dated 18.02.2016 “On the way of delivering public services at front office level in the Republic of Albania” and the implementation of PAR SG Recommendations. Following the above, ADISA has established an in house innovation lab “ADISA Lab” (Order of the Executive Director of ADISA, No. 1118, dated 16.11.2017), focused on developing innovative ideas and solutions for improving public service delivery based on the needs of citizens and businesses in Albania. Since 2017, ADISA Lab is working for the Albanian Government with the support of the UNDP manage ISDA support donor pull fund project and collaborating with public institutions, NGOs, students, citizens, businesses academia and International/local experts.
Upon different surveys and focus groups, we realized that the main problem of public service delivery in Albania is accessibility. Who suffers it the most? People with disabilities.
Following the above, in January 2017 ADISA Lab started working on its first project, namely on “Services without barriers”. We chose it as our first projects, because we want to improve public service delivery for citizens with different abilities, by training the staff, improving the space and working with the users. Taking into consideration that the lab is composed of a group of ADISA employees, which are experts of different fields, we started by tackling problems from the outside in, in order to build useable solutions.
In the path of understanding our users, we got feedback on their feelings towards public service delivery. Mostly, they feel invisible to staff, discriminated, and want to be treated equally. In addition, they told us about lack of physical infrastructure everywhere: desks that are flat at the front – no room for the legs or wheelchair, counters that are too high, wheelchair that doesn’t fit at the desk, not functional ramps, difficulties on finding the way around the center or to read the information on the information cards, or even online.
Following this feedback, we analysed the information and redefined the challenge. We brainstormed potential solutions and built prototypes: training modules, signals and access to the ADISA’s Citizen Service Centres, and how to communicate with users. Then we determined our solution for the access of the building and use of the services, as: dedicated parking spaces, outside signage, ramp and elevator, floor markers, entrance video in sign language, accessible counters, adapted waiting spaces, accessible washroom. The solution is organized in three main pillars, as below:
* Training our staff
* Improvement of the physical space
* Working with our users
All the above is now implemented in the new Citizen Service Centre established by ADISA in Shkodra.
So far, this CSC is reconstructed with the highest standards and equipped with all the facilities for people with disabilities, thus meaning signs, lower desks, ramps, audio-visual, dedicated space etc.
When we talk about accessibility, people often assume we mean making a building or other space accessible to wheelchair use and don't think beyond that. What we have provided in the CSC in Shkodra is true accessibility. We have given a thought to many different types of disabilities and how you can change things to make the people who have them feel welcome, not just in the physical structure of the CSC, but also on the attitudes and communication of the staff towards this category.
In addition, we have prepared a sign language video, in order to facilitate the access in all ADISA CSC’s for people with disabilities (deaf category).