Outbreak responses can promote Cities for All: New research by UC Berkekey’s IURD
The COVID-19 pandemic has placed nearly 1 billion people with disabilities worldwide in an untenable situation. Policies such as social distancing, mobility restrictions through lock-downs, and the subsequent loss of incomes and livelihood are threatening to undo the real progress we have made.
Since the passage of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, we have worked with Mayors and city leaders around the world to advance the principles of equity, access, and inclusion.
The Covid-19 outbreak has the potential to undo this progress or advance it, but it is up to us to act now. Reduced access to routine medical care and poorly conceived policies can amount to a full-scale assault on the lives of people with disabilities who live in cities.
However, we also have an opportunity to rebuild our cities. We have an opportunity to strengthen local leadership and build cities that are more responsive to everyone, including persons with disabilities, and older persons in times of pandemics.
According to Prof. Jason Corburn, Director of the Institute for Urban and Regional Development, and Dr. Victor Pineda, head of the Inclusive Cities Lab, cities can and should do better.
The Journal of Urban Health published an article they co-authored entitled “Disability, Urban Health Equity, and the Coronavirus Pandemic: Promoting Cities for All.” The article lays out practical steps that city leaders can take right away.
“The pandemic highlights existing inequities but is also galvanizing leaders and activists to generate new, more inclusive cities for all,” says Dr. Pineda, also a lecturer at UC Berkeley, President of World Enabled and leader of the Global Compact on Cities for All.
According to the World Health Organization and the World Bank, more than 1 billion people are living with a disability. By 2050, 940 million people living in cities may be living with a disability. Persons with disabilities are four times as likely to be adversely impacted during an emergency, such as the novel coronavirus pandemic, potentially creating and exacerbating urban inequalities.
“Our cities, not people, are disabled, “says Corburn. Poor urban planning, lack of inclusive policies and failures to implement universal design makes persons living with disabilities more susceptible when an infection spreads. “Their caregiving places and helpers may be disrupted, job and employment loss may occur, accessing food and other services can become that much harder,” says Professor Corburn.
The article includes specific recommendations, including (1) making all information and communications accessible to all. (2) Ensuring persons with disabilities (PWD) and disabled person organizations (DPOs) are at the center of program and policy decisions and implementation. (3) ensuring that all persons with disabilities have continued access to essential services, including healthcare and personal assistants. (4) immediate economic supports to PWDs to ensure they do not fall into poverty and mitigate any job losses and/or movement restrictions. (5) more strict enforcement of anti-discrimination and labor protections for PWDs.
Dr. Pineda has organized and is leading a weekly webinar with participants from around the world, focused on generating immediate and long-term solutions to the pandemic and more inclusive cities, called “Equity and Access in the Time of Pandemic.”
The Cities for All Webinar Series will support the research being advanced by the Inclusive Cities Lab‘s ’research initiatives that further innovative approaches to inclusive urban development.
“My work through IURD and World Enabled aims to ensure that decision-makers in cities and researchers listen to people on the ground, and collectively generate new strategies that can work,” says Dr. Pineda.
With international partners, the Inclusive Cities Lab helps city leaders, industry partners, international organizations and other stakeholders build inclusive societies where people with disabilities and older persons can fully develop their talents and reach their full potential. As a call to action, Dr. Pineda states that, “We need a manifesto and global action for greater urban inclusion now because the future is accessible, and it is up to us to build it now.”
About the Inclusive Cities Lab @ IURD:
The Inclusive Cities Lab is a collaboration between UC Berkeley’s Institute for Urban and Regional Development and the Pineda Foundation / World Enabled. The Inclusive Cities Lab develops research, training, and policy recommendations to support to urban inclusion and diversity initiatives.
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