Despite many years of campaigning for disability access across our cities, the results are only piecemeal. But what constitutes an accessible and inclusive city? Australian researchers conducted a global review to find out the enablers and barriers to inclusive design.
“Accessible and inclusive are not common headline city descriptors and even less commonly paired.”
One of the issues is that the concept of accessible and inclusive is multifaceted with many terms alluding to the same thing. The terms that matter most and need to be explicit, are accessible and inclusive. However, these terms are made invisible in the literature and guidelines. Terms such as, Healthy, Age-Friendly, Liveable, Inclusive Smart, and Smart Sustainable have implicit links to access and inclusion. And they are usually aspirational statements without tangible strategies outcomes. That means, they can’t be evaluated either.
“Despite its resonant face validity, ‘accessibility’ is a slippery concept even when applied only to the built environment.”
The researchers include a table of 14 domains of inclusion and access in their paper. Some of these link with the WHO Age Friendly Cities Guide. From these domains they provide a set of key domains that can be used to measure an accessible and inclusive city.
- Connectivity (spatial & digital);
- Economic participation, employment and education;
- Community and social infrastructure; and
- Processes of engagement and inclusion.
The researchers conclude that the main obstacle is the lack of agreement on access and inclusion factors. Their paper reviewed the global benchmarks of accessible and inclusive cities to provide some exemplars. They also highlighted ways to enhance the experiences of people with disability.
The title of the article is, Global Benchmarking of Accessible and Inclusive Cities.
From the abstract
Globally, many built environments fail to meet the accessibility needs of people with disability. This is despite people with disability agitating for built environment accessibility improvement for many decades. This paper reviews the global literature to determine what constitutes an accessible and inclusive city and to discover global benchmarks of accessible and inclusive cities for people with disability.
We identified five (composite) domains that an accessible and inclusive city would include: 1. Connectivity (spatial & digital); 2. Economic participation, employment and education; 3. Housing; 4. Community and social infrastructure; and 5. Processes of engagement and inclusion.
We also identified accessible and inclusive city exemplars, including Breda, the Netherlands and Gdynia, Poland. From the global review of exemplars and definitions, domains and indicators, areas of practical action were identified that require multi-entity, multisector collaborations with influential partners addressing all prioritised domains.
These actions included: the need to include people with disability in the planning and design of environments and services; work across the linked domains of the built form, services, attitudes, and economic participation; and the need to revise construction, design, planning and architectural education to foreground the needs and requirements of those with disability.