In May 2020 Constance Houck filed a claim to make the official meetings of the municipal assembly of Lagos accessible to people with disabilities. The meeting are held on the second floor of the old municipal building in the center of Lagos. There are two flights of very steep stairs to access the meeting room and no elevator, so people with reduced mobility are effectively prohibited from participating in local government meetings.
The letter we received from the Provedora references a commitment made by the President of the municipality of Lagos to make the building accessible to everyone and or move the meetings to a venue that can be accessible to everyone.
Please see a copy of the letter here and the English translation. Note: This letter is not intended to be used as setting a precedent, it only applies to the facts in this particular claim.
In the letter there is a reference to a technical report. On April the 6th 2021 Kevin Aplin for Accessible Algarve filed a public records request with the municipality to better understand what modifications were proposed and a timeline for implementation. We were given the runaround, it took a month, three visits to the council building and two lengthy phone calls to obtain a three page report.
In Portugal any citizen has a right to see documents regarding issues that they have an interest in and we advocate that process should be prompt and transparent, this was not the case in this instance, we know the Municipality could and should do better.
After reviewing the documents it is still unclear when the assembly meetings will be open for people with reduced mobility.
The good news is we have been assisted in this process by lawyers Raquel Carlos and Carolina Soares from the firm of Cardigos in Lisbon. They have been representing us on a pro Bono basis and helped us prepare the claims with the Provedora.
Currently Raquel is talking with city officials on our behalf to ensure that the meetings become accessible as soon as possible. In representing our interests Raquel is also advocating for all people with disabilities in Portugal, who have a constitutional and legal right to attend government meetings.
We are extremely grateful for the time, dedication, skills and compassion that the law firm of Cardigos has shown in representing us.
Please stay tuned to this blog for more updates.
Note: We are still awaiting a decision on the second part of our claim with the Provedora regarding the accessibility of public transport in the Algarve.