Award set up by the Foundation

The “Lebendige Stadt” Foundation presents a Foundation Award each year in recognition of innovative civic projects such as particularly outstanding cultural and civic marketing events, successful city displays comprising elements such as light, sound and water (as temporary or permanent installations), and projects in the field of building conservation and tourism, especially if these are of cultural or artistic value.

Foundation Award 2012

Barrier-Free City

Barrier-Free City - Independence, Mobility, Participation

2012 Foundation Award

The city of Schwerin has been awarded the title of "Barrier-Free City" by the "Lebendige Stadt" Foundation and the German Ministry for Families. The Foundation and the Ministry staged a Europe-wide competition in search of projects that promote the independence and mobility of all people and their participation in public life. In addition to choosing the winning concept, the expert jury also recognized the exemplary efforts to promote barrier-free life environments by the cities of Bayreuth, Furth (near Landshut in Bavaria), Luxembourg, Sosnowiecz (Poland) and Taunusstein (in the Hessen region in central Germany). Around 150 cities and municipalities from Germany and abroad submitted entries for the competition. The Deutsche Bahn AG rail company supported the Foundation Award.


"The competition showed the high-level commitment of towns and cities to promote accessibility despite the current budget restraints. The many private initiatives, which not only take the strain off the public coffers but also encourage solidarity in society and mutual support, are particularly worthy of praise", says Alexander Otto, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the "Lebendige Stadt" Foundation.

The award ceremony took place on the evening of Thursday, September 6, 2012 before around 500 guests in the Gesellschaftshaus building at the Palmengarten venue in Frankfurt. The tribute speakers included Hessen Finance Minister Dr. Thomas SchäferKlaus-Peter Müller, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Commerzbank, Freiburg Lord Mayor Dr. Dieter Salomon, former Cologne Lord Mayor Prof. h.c. Dr. h.c. Fritz Schramma and DB-Regio Board member Michael Hahn.

Winner of the 2012 Foundation Award: Schwerin

First place in the award competition was shared by two projects in Schwerin, the capital city of the state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania. This further underlines why the city deserved the title of "Barrier-Free City". The award was presented firstly in recognition of the work of the nonprofit association "Haus der Begegnung Schwerin e.V.". The association was set up in 1996 with the aim of creating a center offering a wide range of social advisory and support services. These services are meanwhile used by 25,000 inhabitants of Schwerin every year, making the centre an important institution in the social infrastructure of the city. The aim of making Schwerin a barrier-free city also extended to the Federal Horticultural Show in 2009. The idea was to ensure unhindered access to this exhibition for everyone - in particular those with mobility, hearing and sight impairments. To this end, the association brought the planners and management of the exhibition together with accessibility experts at an early stage in the process - with the result that the Federal Horticultural Show was extensively barrier-free for the first time. The association has made the wide-ranging insights and experience gained during this project available to other towns and cities.

The second part of the shared award went to the Schwerin Urban Development Agency for a concept based on an initiative of local people and players: the idea was to ensure that the redevelopment of the Neu Zippendorf district in Schwerin was geared towards making this district barrier-free. The "Accessibility" working group was set up in 2000 to achieve this goal. It initially comprised eight local inhabitants who also represented the relevant associations active on behalf of people with disabilities. The working group was chaired by an employee of the Urban Development Agency. The working group still has more or less the same make-up today and is committed to the ongoing barrier-free development of Neu Zippendorf. The job of the working group is to review all plans in and around residential areas in terms of accessibility, the removal of barriers in the civic district, and the compilation of a set of guidelines for the people-friendly and handicapped-accessible layout of streets and open spaces. Due to its precision and practicability, these guidelines now form the basis for all contracts with planning firms, and all draft plans are submitted to the working group. At the same time, the guidelines help people to gain the expertise they need for their honorary work; they also sharpen the awareness of administration and planning experts for the needs and concerns of those affected by their decisions. In addition to recognizing the efforts of the "Accessibility" working group and the civic administration in Schwerin, the jury also praised the fact that the barrier-free layout of public spaces has become an integral part of the city's urban development strategy and therefore the precondition for the local people to be able to live independent and self-determined lives.


Special mention: Bayreuth

The participation of handicapped people in the life of the city is a central objective of the Bayreuth administration: the tactile guidance system on the pavements of the city center, blind-friendly traffic lights with studded safety areas and lowered pavement sections help sight-impaired people to move around more independently. The handicapped-friendly organization of the local public transport system, including the use of low-floor buses and special training for bus drivers, ensures better access for handicapped people and makes it easier for them to use transport services. One project particularly worthy of mention is the barrier-free design of the "RW 21", a complex housing a youth and civic library, the city archive and an adult education center under one roof. Generation-spanning activities like the "reading sponsors" or computer courses bring young and old together and promote interaction between people of different ages. In the Café Samocca, people with disabilities are employed in all areas and take an active part in the life of the community through their work. In addition, the city presents awards in recognition of outstanding efforts by private individuals to optimize accessibility. The jury praised the city of Bayreuth for its holistic approach towards minimizing and removing barriers in the city.


Special mention: Furth (Bavaria)

The Bavarian village of Furth (near Landshut) has been pursuing a city center development strategy geared towards accessibility since the mid-1990s: this means the barrier-free layout of the village square, public paths, the town hall, the childcare center and the lower and upper schools as well as the living quarters for older people and the handicapped. All the important services and retail outlets - from butcher, baker, hairdresser, cafés, banks and doctors to the town hall, the church and sheltered accommodation are concentrated in the redesigned center of the village, and all the main facilities can be reached on foot within the space of just five minutes. As a result, the heart of the village is a popular location for all the people in Furth and has become a place to spend time and meet people. The local people themselves are among the investors in the new layout of the village center, which means that this positive development in Furth is also chiefly driven by the efforts and commitment of the people who live there.


Special mention: Luxembourg

Alongside construction work to improve accessibility to public buildings and paths, a further focal point of the activities of the city of Luxembourg is to increase the participation of handicapped people and to raise awareness for their concerns among the population at large. During an annual awareness week, clubs and associations stage a wide range of information events so that the able-bodied can experience and better understand the everyday lives of people with disabilities. These events help people to overcome their reservations and promote dialogue and interaction between those with and without handicaps. Other services provided by the city include over fourteen signing courses every year, the organization of a monthly signing café to promote contacts between the hearing and the deaf, the Internet streaming of local council meetings in sign language, the creation of a participatory committee to improve the situation of those affected by hearing impairments, and the reservation of special areas at public events for people with limited mobility. The jury praised the way in which the city of Luxembourg meets its responsibility to remove barriers and goes even further by entering into dialogue to promote the interaction of all groups in society and by providing funding and support.


Special mention: Sosnowiecz (Poland)

In 2008, the Polish city of Sosnowiec launched a civic program of action and participation under the name "Fashion for Success – Steps towards Self-Reliance". The aim is to promote solidarity in society and encourage mutual support. The services are chiefly aimed at children and adolescents as well as the socially disadvantaged. The program depends on the efforts of local people as well as the work of nonprofit associations and organizations. The city's social workers have a great deal of leeway to develop activities together with the local people, and these activities are then organized on an honorary basis. They include such things as volleyball tournaments, climbing and dancing lessons, and art and theater workshops as well as integration fairs and civic greening campaigns. The activities also extend to practical everyday topics like first aid, traffic safety training and free advisory services provided by educators, lawyers and psychologists. The city of Sosnowiec provides the premises for these activities as well as meals and financial support. In addition, the social welfare agency publishes brochures containing information on the social activities and services offered by local clubs and associations.


Special mention: Taunusstein (Hessen)

The nonprofit "Neighborhood Help Taunusstein" association is committed to improving, restoring or re-awakening neighborhood relationships in the smallest social entities. In doing so, it also beings people together who previously did not know each other and helps them to retain their independence while promoting their mobility and participation in public life. Within the space of just two years, the number of honorary members of the association has grown from 40 to over 600. The support services offered by the association include arranging and accompaniment to doctor's appointments, taking people shopping or simply taking people for a walk, computer courses, small repairs and gardening, helping to take the strain off people caring for members of their family, looking after pets, help with official appointments and correspondence, or arranging social contacts for the lonely. In line with its philosophy of promoting the efforts of local people and creating civil society structures, the town of Taunusstein supports the work of the association in various ways: it engages in PR activities to publicize the services offered by the association, and the association is able to use municipal premises free of charge. Thanks to its easy accessibility and low administrative workload, the Taunusstein model is ideal for imitation by other municipalities.