Radical inclusion for urban transformation

Victor Santiago Pineda reflects on the Burning Man community which recognises that everyone has something valuable to contribute. It challenges the idea that some people are worth more than others. This in turn introduced him to the concept of radical inclusion. Pineda discusses this concept in relation to cities and Amartya Sen’s Capability Model.

Much of the chapter covers well trodden ground with the seven principles of universal design and more statistics to show the imperatives of inclusive practice.

A cityscape with a foreground of parkland and woodland.

Can we universally design a whole city?

Pineda relates his conversation with Kat Holmes the inclusive design champion at Microsoft. In her book she talks of the “Mismatch” where people who design society determine who can participate and who’s left out.

The tail ends of the population bell curve become invisible when governments aggregate figures. It’s at the local government level where planning is more nuanced with more of a focus on “outliers”. They are in a better position to take a universal design approach to their plans and actions. By definition, national policies are played out at a local level. That is, in communities where people live, not in a national or state policy document.

An easy to read chapter that includes discussion on climate change and examples and images of successful urban transformations.

The title of the book chapter is Radical Inclusion: The Key to Urban Transformation.

From the abstract

Fifteen percent of the global population has a disability, which will only increase with population ageing. Half of the world’s population live in cities and this is where we need to promote inclusion to address a rapidly changing demographic.

Disability is becoming increasingly common and cities must be transformed to be inclusive of everyone. The Capability Model argues that disability is created by barriers in the social environment and therefore requires social change. When barriers exist, inclusive communities work to transform the way they are organized to meet the needs of all people.

The radical inclusion is a framework aims to eliminate barriers that hinder individuals and communities from reaching their full potential. It goes beyond full participation to create inclusive systems that promote equity and resilience. Their aim is to remove barriers that perpetuate poverty, inequality, disempowerment, isolation, and exclusion.

Building the inclusive city

Front cover of the book.

Most academic writing about inclusion, disability and urban design is based on Western culture and traditions. Building the Inclusive City, an open access book, covers a recent history of disability in city planning and the cultural context of a middle eastern approach. It brings together social sciences, politics and disability studies for an integrated approach to policy. There are three underpinning themes are:

  • disability research needs a contextual position
  • access and inclusion is both local and global
  • planning education should apply a disability lens to the field
Victor sits casually and smiles at the camera. It looks as if he is sitting in a wheelchair.

The book by Victor Santiago Pineda is downloadable in full or by chapter. It’s good to see this important book has free access. Pineda is based in California.

The full title of the book is, Building the Inclusive City Governance, Access, and the Urban Transformation of Dubai. Published in 2020.

From the introduction to the book:

This book is an anthropological urban study of the Emirate of Dubai, its institutions, and their evolution. It provides a contemporary history of disability in city planning from a non-Western perspective and explores the cultural context for its positioning. Three insights inform the author’s approach.

First, situate disability research in a particular place. Second, access and inclusion forms a key part of both local and global planning issues. Third, 21st century planning education should apply a disability lens to the empirical, methodological, and theoretical advances of the field.

By bridging theory and practice, this book provides new insights on inclusive city planning and comparative urban theory. This book is a story of how equity and justice are central themes in building the cities of the future and of today.”

Picture of towering buildings in the Dubai skyline with river in the foreground
high rise buildings in Dubai

Editor’s note: I travelled to Dubai in 2015 and found much of the new infrastructure very accessible. Air conditioned bus stop shelters were a nice surprise. 

Accessibility Toolbar