Inclusive and sustainable communities

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Sustainable Development Goals are intertwined. Lisa Stafford explains the connections in a paper outlining her co-designed research project. She takes a disability justice perspective on inclusive cities through the voices of people with disability.

Inclusion and equity are integral to achieving sustainable cities and communities. But the voices of people with disability are missing in the urban agenda.

People standing in front of large paper with graphic harvest (drawings) from community chat about inclusive and sustainable communities.

A previous paper briefly explains the research design, preliminary work, and the co-design method.

Key findings

The five elements of inclusive communities need to be reflected in how communities and cities are designed and planned.

  • Planning for human diversity
  • All people-centred urban governance
  • Equity, accessibility and ease are core bases
  • Planning for connectedness
  • Vibrant places and experiences

Graphic by Kylie Dunn

Graphic showing the five elements of making inclusive communities.

To achieve equitable outcomes means addressing the entrenched notion of ‘normal’ and the stereotypes of what constitutes ‘disability’. Fundamental to making communities inclusive is the ability to connect with nature and other people and place. Vibrant places provide experiences that are important to wellbeing and a sense of belonging.

Inclusive communities is a lived concept, not something drawn up in plans or policies. It is multidimensional and experienced in places. The legacy of ableist urban planning means that communities remain places of exclusion.

The title of the article is, The Makings of Disability-Inclusive Sustainable Communities: Perspectives from Australia. Note that Stafford and the research team prefer to use the identity first term “disabled people”. They acknowledge that some people prefer “person first” language of “people with disability”. The UN Convention uses the person first terminology.

From the abstract

The right to inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable suburbs is an aim of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11. The focus is on addressing race, disability, class, gender and age inequality and injustice by the year 2030.

Despite this interest in creating inclusive sustainable cities and communities, we still know little about what this means for disabled people. In this article, we address this gap through participatory qualitative research study.

The study, Planning Inclusive Communities, involved 97 people (9-92 years of age). More than 50% identified as disabled people from two Australian regions – Tasmania and Queensland.

The research revealed five core interrelated elements in “The Makings of Inclusive Communities”. These five elements reinforce the importance of interconnected social, economic, and built environment structures and systems in facilitating inclusion, and that inclusion happens in place and movement through everyday experiences.

The findings offer new insights through the voices of disabled and non-disabled people, around issues of equity, access, and inclusion. The research guides future urban policy and planning for inclusive cities and communities.

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