Urban Disruption, Sidewalk Labs and Social Inclusion in the Public Realm of Future SmartCities

OP-ED in Reply To: “Reimagining cities from the internet up” by Daniel L. Doctoroff

Dear Daniel L. Doctoroff,

Bravo! Bravo! Bravo! I applaud and appreciate your efforts and the efforts of your team at Sidewalk Labs for demonstrating the importance of listening, learning, and putting all people first.

Like yourself, I understand the urban public realm and am eager to see it improve, particularly in the domains of inclusion and accessibility for citizens who are aging and people living with cross-disabilities.

Lessons learned in the 20-year history of Smart Cities are testaments to the truth that successful and sustainable Smart Cities cannot be built solely upon the technology mainframe. Instead, we must support and engage the broader community, prioritize and practice people-centered urban design and provide multi-modal pathways for all citizens — including citizens who are aging and living with disabilities — to join-in and meaningfully participate in the co-creation of their Smart City.

Cities are networks of individuals — and people who are aging and living with disabilities are integral to these networks, along with their families, neighbors, and caregivers. Engaging the disability and aging communities in the planning of Smart Cities is critical to ensuring alignment with citizen needs and expectations.

Today more than 46 million Americans are over the age of 65, and 57 million Americans live with disabilities. Given the rapid pace of urbanization, these numbers are expected to double by 2060, creating an imperative social responsibility and global mandate to design and build Smart Cities for human diversity and social inclusion.

As a Global Inclusion Strategist and a person born with multiple non-visible disabilities, I thoughtfully recommend adding a new lab focused on solutions for building inclusive and accessible Smart Cities that ensure citizens living with disabilities and individuals that are aging are not left behind or excluded in the lightning speed of urban growth and Smart City innovation.

With your commitment to tackling the challenges of urbanization in new and innovative ways —re-imagining cities from the internet up — I do not doubt the new “Inclusion and Accessibility Lab” will quickly become the vanguard for development of inclusive and accessible Smart City technologies, integrating Universal Design and the fundamental principles of People-Centered Urban Planning.

Should you choose to realize my recommendation for the new “Inclusion and Accessibility Lab,” I would considerably enjoy helping Sidewalk Labs build upon its current thinking about public spaces, Smart Cities, and social inclusion.

Well, that is not precisely true.

To be frank, I want to do more than that. What I really want is to help Sidewalk Labs radically expand its current capacity for urban disruption and social inclusion by becoming its new Public Realm Director —setting-the-pace for public/private partnerships, community engagement and making Smart Cities even better with the development of inclusive technologies, devices, applications, services, and products that are of, by and for all communities.

I welcome your reply.

Darren Bates is a lifelong champion of equality, inclusion, and social justice for people with disabilities and other historically marginalized populations. Darren is internationally recognized as a Visionary Leader in Global Inclusion and Smart City Radical Innovation.

Founder of Darren Bates LLC a boutique consulting firm and global resource that empowers Smart Cities, government, and private industry — at all stages of growth — to build accessible and inclusive digital societies that ensure no citizen is left behind.

In 2017, Darren Bates LLC launched the Smart Cities Librarya premier, online Smart City resource that includes breaking news, maturity models, best practices, roadmaps, e-books, and other Smart City solutions highly curated and cataloged from thousands of academic, public, and national libraries and periodicals around the world.

Originally published at
Urban Disruption, Sidewalk Labs and Social Inclusion in the Public Realm


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