An ever-growing urban population with overflowing and at times chaotic vehicular traffic can make life difficult even for the most well-abled pedestrian.
The challenges become higher for a person with a disability.
‘How can I go out of my home?’ asks Tajkia Mariam Jahan, a wheelchair user from Dhaka, who was confined to her home for seven years due to the road environment.
The city roads are unwelcoming not only for people in a wheelchair like her but also for persons with all types of disabilities.
Hawa Aktar, a woman with hearing impairment, needs clear, visible signs and signals on road crossings and from vehicles. And Bashir Uddin Molla, a student with visual impairment, needs sounds and guidance when she is walking.
None of these facilities are available to people with disabilities living in Dhaka.
if considering 15% of the world population are living with disabilities as reported by the World Health Organization.
Unfortunately, many of them – like Tajkia – are excluded from economic opportunities due to lack of physical access. When asked why, their answers point to three issues: 1) how road infrastructure and public transport vehicles are designed; 2) how they are maintained and used, and; 3) how drivers and public transport operators behave.
Most sidewalks do not have wheelchair-accessible ramps. Intersections, pedestrian bridges, road crossings, and bus stops are not accessible, either.
Even when roads are designed well, without proper maintenance, these became unfriendly to people with a disability.
The sidewalk surface is often uneven with broken tiles and several potholes. Trash, construction materials and street hawkers occupy the precious space, which makes sidewalks even further inaccessible.
While people with disabilities have no other choice than to take a private mode of transport such as taxis, rickshaws, auto-rickshaws, or CNG as they are known here, drivers of these services sometimes claim up to triple the normal fare because of the additional assistance provided for getting on and off the vehicles.
The government has taken steps to address these issues. Bangladesh signed and ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2007.
Following that, the Persons with Disabilities’ Rights and Protection Act (2013) was enacted, and the National Action Plan is being developed as per the Act.
But the real challenge is the coordinated implementation of the legal framework.
While the Ministry of Social Welfare is the focal agency for disability matters, there are other agencies involved: Roads and Highways Department, Local Government Engineering Division, Bangladesh Road Transport Authority, Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation, City Corporations, and more.
The World Bank, with financial support from the Quality Infrastructure Investment Trust Fund by the Government of Japan, is providing technical assistance to the government to help improve accessibility for all people, especially those with limited mobility.
This program is implemented as part of the Clean Air and Sustainable Environment (CASE) project, through which Dhaka South and North City Corporations have upgraded 70 km of sidewalks and 39 intersections.
Under this program, a draft of 'Better Accessibility Vision' for the two city corporations has been prepared to guide the policymakers and practitioners for future implementation and to ensure better accessibility for all.
The World Bank has also made a commitment to accelerate disability-inclusive development in key areas including transport, at the Global Disability Summit, held on July 24, 2018 in London.
All the World Bank-financed urban mobility and rail projects that support public transport services will be disability-inclusive by 2025.
Because there is so much to do,
We hope the message conveyed through the video will help many of us take the first step.