As we’ve previously reported, making our cities smarter and more inclusive will become increasingly important in the next decades.
“Current projections are that two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050, and with an ageing population comes higher levels of ill-health, impairment and disability.
“Futurists, tech visionaries and urban stakeholders have been talking about ‘smart cities’ for a number of years …and they could transform the lives of those with disabilities,” said Robin Christopherson, AbilityNet’s head of digital inclusion.
But, at a Smart Cities NYC conference in New York last month, there was concern that mobile apps, government services and other smart city tools aren’t properly incorporating the needs of disabled people.
The event saw the launch of the Smart Cities for All toolkit to help city leaders be more inclusive in planning urban technology.
The toolkit, created by not-for-profits G3ict and World Enabled and backed by Microsoft, surveyed hundreds of world leaders from the public and private sectors, advocacy organisations, civil society and academia over the last year and less than half could identify a smart-city project that had any focus on accessibility.
Victor Pineda, president of World Enabled and an urban planner, called for Radical Inclusion of disabled people in Smart Cities plans (see video). He said: “Sustainable Development Goal Number 11 — inclusive and resilient cities — we are not going to meet that goal if we don’t think about people with disabilities in this digital urban infrastructure.”
The toolkit contains a huge database of more than 350 apps, websites, software and other technologies that demonstrate different ways of addressing the digital divide for people with disabilities. This is intended to inspire city leaders, as well as software developers, to come up with ideas for products.
In November 2016, AbilityNet hosted an event designed to gather information to feed into the guide as part of a global round table programme.
The guide also lays out the various international standards that have already been established for digital inclusion and features a model procurement policy for government officers, which draws on global accessibility standards.
Pineda warned that as things stood, cities we’re not going to meet the objective of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities or the New Urban Agenda.
It is hoped the guide will support cities to have smarter and inclusive offerings around emergency response, employment, public safety, justice and financial services for all citizens – including the one billion people worldwide with a disability.