Discovering Special Abilities In One Billion People through Urban Planning
One billion people in the world experience some form of disability. Historically and culturally mistreated, disabled people have to endure difficulties and are less likely to succeed due to lack of proper education, unemployment, and poor health outcomes.
We receive so many emails asking how we can make a positive change in social inclusion. Bringing the different fringes of society together, a sustainable development is possible only when we include the marginalized and excluded people.
No doubt urbanization and technological advancements have pushed a host of economic and sociocultural opportunities, we know from common experience that people suffering from disabilities have a tough life to lead. Take for instance their accessibility to social agencies. Limited transportation options, inaccessible buildings, and public spaces, inferiority complex (often enforced by social prejudices and lack of sensitivity towards them) make matters worse.
Encouraging disabled people to participate socially
Foucault’s magnum opus, Madness, and Civilization accounts how leprosy patients in sixteenth-century Europe were deliberately sent away, in restricted confinement by virtue of their medical condition. The book progresses about how this practice of enforcing confinement is still very common, with disabled people, mad people, abnormal people.
A radical change can occur if we as society members challenge this bias against disabled people. The spirit of inclusion towards them, not sympathy but equality and dignity can make a big difference.
Technology that Empowers
Disability is more about functional limitations and not about physical/mental abilities. Technology can play a big role in improving the life experience of a disabled person. With digitisation of public offices and cashless economy, the barriers can break and should foster socioeconomic participation, financial inclusion and community engagement for disabled people.
Redesigning the Infrastructure (and also Pop Culture)
Eyeglasses and contact lens are no longer a medical necessity alone, they are also a fashion accessory, a style statement. The change in perspective comes simply by imbibing the design culture of the fashion industry. Could we not apply design sensibilities to communication aids, prosthetic limbs, and so on?
That being a thought, you never know when a product designed for disabled people can foster creativity in mainstream design. Remember how Charles and Ray Eames’s furniture became iconic, even though they were initially designed for disabled and injured servicemen. Let’s inspire our designs by disability to plan a postmodern urban city.
The good thing is that designing universally accessible buildings and public spaces do not impact the costs. Once we understand that disabled people are going to use the space, accessibility modes can be adapted to suit humans with or without a disability. While the central idea is to promote inclusion, transparency, participation and resource efficiency, this will also add aesthetic dimensions.
On this International Day of Persons with Disability, we need to undertake the responsibility of making world a better place for disabled people. After all, this is the only minority group that anyone can join.