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Promoting accessibility and inclusivity: big words, but can we achieve them?

August 22, 2016 By Debra Efroymson Accessibility, Cities, Dhaka, Livable Cities, Urban Planning Post a comment!

Expert Joseph Kwan and HealthBridge Regional Director Debra Efroymson discuss accessibility in Dhaka. 

When a city is completely inaccessible for people with disabilities, where do we start? Or should we just throw up our hands and declare defeat?

These were two of the issues discussed in a seminar hosted recently by Work for a Better Bangladesh (WBB) Trust in Dhaka. Our special guest was renowned architect and expert on inclusive design, Joseph Kwan, who brings three decades of experience to the topic. Joseph walked us through a number of excellent reasons for taking the issue seriously, including the fact that 15% of the population has some sort of disability, and disability-friendly design would benefit at least 40% of people (including mothers with strollers).

There are economic costs to excluding a significant portion of the population from educational and work opportunities. There are also costs to failing to address dangerous situations, as they lead to more accidents and disease, which also pose a cost to government. As to where to start, the simple answer is: anywhere you like. When everything is a mess, anything will be progress!

Finally, a point that I greatly appreciated in his talk was the use of the word “inclusive” meaning design that takes into account all different users…and could also mean remembering the importance of the environment, of physical activity, of not emitting carbon dioxide. Truly inclusive development, then, would of course be accessible to people with disabilities, as well as everyone else…but would also provide opportunities for physical activity and would avoid burning fuel. This is something we can happily work towards!!

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