Disabled Activists are Building an Inclusive and Accessible Urban Future for Us All

The words “Cities for All” are spelled out by human participants on a field, beneath it is the word Inclusion in Braille language, on the left is the ASL sign for “I Love You” and on the right is the international symbol for Disability — Aerial Art Project directed by John Quigley

From February 7th until the 13th, the Disability Inclusive and Accessible Urban Development (DIAUD) Network actively engaged in the ninth session of the World Urban Forum (WUF9). The WUF9 mobilized diverse stakeholders in urban development to discuss their best practices, inputs on monitoring and evaluation, and facilitate strategic partnerships for the effective implementation of the New Urban Agenda.

Video of Aerial Art Project directed by John Quigley — hundreds of participants spelled out the words “Cities For All” over a field in Merdeka Square, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The activities of the DIAUD Network at the World Urban Forum catalyzed key commitments by governments to ensure that universal design and accessibility would frame global efforts to implement the New Urban Agenda (NUA). Activists of all ages, with and without disabilities, from all over the world promoted the following: active participation of persons with disabilities, representing all constituency groups from the Global North and South; mentorship and engagement of local youth; national and international media interaction; development of strategic partnerships with diverse stakeholders (government, industry, and civil society) on implementation of NUA; collaboration with a Malaysian DPO to strengthening the Network’s engagements with local community in and around the Forum.

Video report of “Cities For All” aerial art project by Front Desk channel

Through pre-planning and onsite coordination with 20 plus members of the DIAUD, we actively engaged in the WUF9 by organizing, co-sponsoring, presenting and speaking in the following 8 events:

OKU Sentral President Ras Adiba talking to young artists during the art exhibition “City in the Mirror”

Following the events above, the DIAUD Network had central roles in 4 separate side events that were organized by the Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit(GIZ), United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) and UN-Habitat, as well as two interviews on Malaysian national television. Our active participation in the Forum formalized and secured dynamic and diverse range of strategic partnerships, which will lead the Network’s planning and engagements around inclusive urban development at the international, regional and local level.

In addition to the events at the Forum, The DIAUD Network directly influenced the outcome Declaration of the Forum and secured an explicit mention of Accessibility and Universal Design as core aspects of action plans towards implementation of an inclusive New Urban Agenda.

From left to right: OKU Sentral President Ras Adiba; Malaysian Minister of Urban Wellbeing, Noh Omar; Dr. Mason Global Consulting’s Asiah Mason; and DIAUD Network Co-chair Dr. Victor Pineda

We would like to give a special thanks to Darren Walker and Noorain Khan from the Ford Foundation, Elkin Velasquez from UN-Habitat, Ras Adiba and the entire team at OKU Sentral. This could not have happened without the leadership of Global Alliance on Accessible Technologies and Environments (GAATES), World Enabled, CBM, and IDPP in managing the DIAUD Network. We also want to express our gratitude to Ming Zhang from the World Bank, Kathy Kline at the GAP Older Persons Partner Constituent Group, Tom Delasio at Next City, James Thurston at G3ict, Dr. Jasmine Begum at Microsoft, Dr Asiah Mason at Dr. Mason Global, HEWI Inc., Bernama TV, Astro TV, and the Malaysian Minister of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government — for their active coordination and support of our events at WUF9. Let’s continue building an inclusive future together and see you in Abu Dhabi in 2020 for WUF10!