This is a question that cities around the world are trying to answer, as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development advances disability-inclusive development – and makes a strong case for more sector-specific programming that is inclusive of persons with disabilities and leaves no one behind.
New York City is leading by example to ensure that the voices of persons with disabilities are represented.
More than one billion people around the world experience some form of disability. Individuals with disabilities have, on average, poorer health, lower levels of employment and earnings, and higher poverty rates. Children with disabilities are especially at a disadvantage when it comes to enrolling and completing school but also how much they learn while in school. This is especially acute in Sub-Saharan Africa, where our latest research, The Challenge of Inclusive Education in Africa, shows that disability gaps in education are increasing.
At one point, it was considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world. From 1990 to 1993, more than 6,000 people were murdered annually. Drive-by shootings were regular and indiscriminate, stemming from warfare between gang lords, drug criminals, and para-military groups. The need for change was urgent and led to radical urban experimentation.
The city’s political and business leaders recognized that Medellín’s security issues could not be dealt with through policy measures alone. They initiated a series of radical programs to reshape the social fabric of the city’s neighborhoods and to mobilize the poor.
City planners began addressing the problem of endemic violence and inequity through the design of public spaces, transit infrastructure and urban interventions into marginalized neighborhoods. Key to their approach was a commitment to making the public realm a truly shared space, and a faith that they could transform Medellín’s public spaces from sites of segregation and warfare into spaces where communities would come together.
At the World Bank, we know that social inclusion is not only the right thing but also the economically smart thing to do. More inclusive societies are more likely to make the most of their entire stock of human capital. More open and inclusive cities are better placed to attract international capital and talent. More open and inclusive countries make more attractive international tourist destinations.
In the first part of this blog, I introduced the 5D framework and discussed the first 2Ds – Density and Diversity in the context of Singapore’s public housing neighborhood, i.e. HDB towns. In the second part of the blog, I will share the observations of how the HDB neighborhoods reflect the other 3Ds – Destination, Distance, and Design.
“Comfortable” and “walkable” access to public transportation is just one of the many examples that Singapore has done for its neighborhoods, and the total length of Singapore’s covered walkways has now hit 200km!
In order to decrease distance to transit, Singapore encourages people to cycle, which helps resolve the issue of the first and last mile connectivity to public transportation. Many MRT stations and bus interchanges provide multi-level bicycle racks as part of cycling infrastructure to make the city cycle-friendly. In fact, starting July 2016, any new constructions for schools, commercial, retail and business parks (up to a certain scale) must put in place a Walking and Cycling Plan to ensure the public space has adequately incorporated the design that facilitates walkability and cycling.
For more than 30 years, Madam Toh has lived in Bukit Batok, a Singapore public housing town that accommodates more than 110,000 residents. Their flat was constructed by the Singapore Housing and Development Board – known as “HDB” – which provides public housing for 82% of Singapore’s residents.
While working at the World Bank’s Singapore Infrastructure and Urban Hub, I was fortunate to meet Madam Toh, who, together with her husband, raised their three children in their three-bedroom flat. When asked about her experience living in an HDB neighborhood, her immediate reactions were that it was both “convenient” and “comfortable” – “I can get everything I need within 10 minutes on foot.”
She is now 64 years old and takes a daily 10-minute walk to the metro train station (Mass Rapid Transit, or “MRT”) via a linkway – an activity she likes because the covered footpath seamlessly connects her home and the community’s amenities, making them excellent shelters from the rain or sun for pedestrians.
After exploring several of Singapore’s neighborhoods, I found that they offer “down to earth” examples of livability and showcase excellent integrated urban design qualities.
In many countries, women walk over six kilometers to collect water. Between 2006 and 2012 in Niger, women traveled an hour, on average, to fetch water. Worldwide, 4.5 billion people lack access to safely managed sanitation services and 2.1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water services.
Yet even these large numbers and stunning statistics cannot fully reflect the reality for pockets of societies which bear the brunt of inaccessibility. Marginalized groups and low-income communities often lack basic water and sanitation to a staggering degree - a recent World Bank study found that in Guatemala only 33 percent of the indigenous population have access to sanitation, compared to 77% of the non-indigenous population.
Social inclusion can involve one or a combination of factors that exclude people from markets and services. It is the path to ensuring that marginalized groups are given a seat at the decision-making table. To this end, inclusion is an important component of the work of the World Bank’s Global Water Security and Sanitation Partnership (GWSP). The GWSP aims to deepen social inclusion in water through knowledge generation and curation, country engagements, learning, and stronger partnerships. Moving into its second year, GWSP has supported a number of initiatives and projects to help advance the inclusion agenda:
Today, I’m participating in the “Leaving No One Behind” conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and reflecting on what it takes to do just that – to ensure no one is left behind.
The fact that this conference is about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, and how governments and development institutions can address exclusion based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), causes me to reflect on those who have to face this stigma because they do not conform to the expectations of society.
Too often, the world can feel like a harsh and non-inclusive place for people who don’t fit others’ ideas of how they should look, think, speak, feel, behave – how they should “be”. I firmly believe that this has real impacts on individuals, communities, and economies.
However, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide great opportunity for more inclusive development – opportunity for a seismic change in human development. After all, the overarching principle adopted with the SDGs is the theme of today’s conference – “leaving no one behind”. Whether it’s the SDGs, or the World Bank’s twin goals of ending extreme poverty and increasing shared prosperity, I strongly believe that these lofty goals can only be achieved through economic and social inclusion of the most marginalized.
This last May in Tokyo, we talked about demographic transitions and aging cities, in a week-long discussion with city leaders from around the world. Although we saw the opportunities that arise from having large numbers of elderly persons in cities, we also focused on the numerous challenges, many of which are grounded in age-related disability – both physical and cognitive. We had expected that the conversation would be as our flagship report on social inclusion, Inclusion Matters: The Foundation for Shared Prosperity, puts it – about “including” the elderly into markets, services, and spaces following our framework.
Enter Rich Donovan, with a riveting talk that stood our assumptions on their heads. Rich argued that persons with disability are a market. They are an opportunity. And that there is an economic “return on disability.” If we build and design having persons with disabilities in mind, we are in fact creating public goods. In short, and as Rich has said elsewhere - this new vision of disability “transforms efforts of charity into the world’s largest emerging market”.
I got a chance to talk to Rich in Tokyo. Among other things, I asked him whether “social inclusion” is too arcane, or even too limiting an idea for the revolutionary take that he has on disability.
Rich’s book “Unleash Different” will be out in September 2018. We look forward to continuing the conversation with Rich about the return on disability. Meanwhile, watch this video in full, and leave a comment to share your thoughts, as world leaders gather in London for the Global Disability Summit.