How should we design disability-inclusive cities?


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Urbanization has been one of the most significant driving forces of recent global development, with more than half the world’s population now living in cities. And this proportion will continue to rise. Add to this, the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 11 that calls for “inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” cities.

In this edition of the Sustainable Communities Blog, Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez (@Ede_WBG), Senior Director of the World Bank’s Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice, sat down with Dr. Shazia Siddiqi, Executive Director of Deaf Abused Women’s Network (DAWN), for a conversation on the disability dimension of inclusion and how we should conceive and design cities that are truly inclusive of all, including persons with disabilities. 

DAWN is a non-profit organization servicing the Washington, D.C., area with a mission to promote healthy relationships and end abuse in the Deaf community through providing survivors of abuse the help they need to heal and progress with lives, and through community education on how to foster positive relationships.

This wide-ranging discussion touches on several key issues that are crucial for sustainable and inclusive development and important for breaking down barriers of exclusion. Particularly given the prevalence of persons with disabilities moving to cities, the topics include how to incorporate disability inclusive technology into smart city planning, disaster risk management (DRM), and attitudes that enhance the dignity of persons with disabilities.

The potential of cities to provide increased educational opportunities, public transit, and diverse employment fields have made them attractive places for persons with disabilities to live in.  We must take this into consideration in urban planning and development.

Shazia raises the dual benefit of Smart Cities for the population at large, but also specifically for persons with disabilities. She highlights the fact that disability-inclusive technology is good design for all including the elderly or those who prefer choices in communication and interaction, and can serve to make cities more accessible and easier to navigate  with a range of interface and communication choices.

With the increase of natural disasters and conflict across the globe, DRM is at the forefront of the global development agenda. For example, this Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) funded activity is reviewing good practices in inclusive DRM to offer recommendations for including persons with disabilities in the World Bank’s and GDFRR’s relevant investments.

Shazia shared a personal experience about a disaster that occurred in Washington DC and how important it was to her organization that Deaf people had a seat at the table where fast decisions and possible resolutions were being identified. She made a point that persons with disabilities need a seat at the table from start to finish. Achieving disability-inclusive DRM is imperative for leaving no one behind. 

The interview closes with a discussion about dignity, which is a current area of focus in the World Bank. Ede emphasized the importance of dignity as being fundamental to our operations as an economic institution. Shazia shared these sentiments stating, “I encourage the World Bank staff to examine their own attitudes towards disability. People with disabilities are human.”

Related links:


Shazia Siddiqi

Executive Director of non-profit organization, Deaf Abused Women’s Network (DAWN)

Join the Conversation

Patricio V Marquez
December 04, 2017

Excellent and timely blog Ede and Shazia. As we observe walking to work everyday in Washington, D.C., the mentally ill homeless roaming the streets are the "invisible disable". Persons with mental and psychosocial disabilities represent a significant proportion of the world’s population with special needs. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that millions of people have mental disorders, and that one in four people globally will experience a mental disorder in their lifetime. Moreover, almost one million people die each year due to suicide, which is the third leading cause of death among young people. According to several recent reports, suicide has surpassed maternal mortality as the leading cause of death among girls aged 15-19 years globally. Aside from facing entrenched stigma and discrimination – and physical and sexual abuse in homes, hospitals, prisons, or as homeless people -- persons affected by mental disorders are excluded from social, economic and political activities. Time to do something globally!!!

December 13, 2017

Excellent video and insights, Thanks Ede for such great interview. Urbanisation can be a source of economic growth and prosperity in the life. I appreciate the World Bank investment in urban sector of Afghanistan and it's my honor to be part of Urban support project as Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist strive to make sure the project is implemented efficiently and to achieve the desired results that would significantly improve the wellbeing of people. Thanks. Abdul, Kabul.

Dr. Mohamed Taher Abdelrazik Hamada, Ph.D
December 14, 2017

It is time to include people with disabilities to regular environment , if we seek sustainable communities , it is necessary to make such people feel that they are not abused or marginal members in the society because they can do and can help positively and as we all know technology is a great tool of help in such inclusion through educational programming.
Yours Very Respectfully,
Dr. Mohamed Taher Abdelrazik Hamada, Ph.D

Michael Corso
January 04, 2018

It is reassuring that inclusion is at the table in the planning. My hope is that this isn't just a show and tell situation. It is imperative that people with disabilities are included in deciding things that will directly affect them. Only then when we are seen as equal in all aspects will disability abuse stop.
Michael Corso
disABLEDperson, Inc. Public Charity

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June 21, 2018

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