Guidelines and standards for accessibility

It is essential that a policy commitment to accessibility is supported with clear practical guidance on standards for design of infrastructure.

Resources below provide overall standards and guidelines to design and implement accessible infrastructure in developing countries. There is also a range of manuals and guidelines for designing and implementing accessible infrastructure which have been developed for specific thematic areas, such as Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), Inclusive Education, Health, Disaster Risk Reduction and Conflict Situations. Case studies on good practice will also be provided as they become available.

See also: Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, Education, Humanitarian and Disaster Risk Reduction and Inclusive Elections (accessible polling places).

Global Infrastructure Hub (2019) Reference Tool on Inclusive Infrastructure and Social Equity

The Reference Tool on Inclusive Infrastructure and Social Equity presents a practical evidence-based framework for practitioners to maximise the impact of infrastructure investment on reducing inequality and promoting shared prosperity. The framework details six Action Areas, or themes, related to infrastructure development, and provides related guidance and real-life examples, including the eight detailed case studies. The section on Inclusive Standards and Universal Design (under Action Area 3: Policy, Regulation and Standards) is of particular relevance to the accessibility of infrastructure.

World Bank Group (2022) Technical Note on Accessibility: The Project Cycle Guidance

Considerations about accessibility should be addressed at all stages of the project cycle. These guidance sheets provide support regarding entry points for accessibility-related issues throughout the project cycle and the core project documentation.

CBM Global Inclusion Advisory Group (2021) Accessible meetings and events: a toolkit

This toolkit provides guidance on organising accessible and inclusive events and meetings in planning, delivery and follow-up stages. The guidance is in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), key recommendations (particularly recommendations 1 to 7) from the UN Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) report on enhancing accessibility for persons with disabilities to conferences and meetings of the United Nations system, and information from the UN Disability Inclusion Strategy. The toolkit includes a useful checklist that helps with event planning – to make sure you have covered all areas.

UN-Habitat (2014) Accessibility of Housing: A handbook of inclusive affordable solutions for persons with disabilities and older persons

This handbook presents practical solutions to address accessibility barriers for persons with disabilities and older persons in the contexts of slum upgrading, reconstruction, and large-scale affordable and social housing programs. It includes technical guidelines to support accessible housing and case studies.

Pacific Region Infrastructure Facility (PRIF), Pacific Development Forum, Pacific Islands Forum Secr Improving Accessibility in Transport: Infrastructure Projects in the Pacific Islands

This document provides an assessment of the situation in the Pacific islands region in regards to the accessibility of transport, including air, maritime and road transportation. Technical guidelines for improving accessibility of transportation and facilities are outlined, and screening tools for assessing or auditing accessibility features are also provided.

Disability Inclusive & Accessible Urban Development Network, World Enabled, CBM (2016) The Inclusion Imperative: Towards Disability-inclusive and Accessible Urban Development

This resource outlines key recommendations for disability inclusive urban development. The recommendations and “key questions to ask” help policy makers, urban development professionals, disability rights advocates, civil society organisations, private sector and academia ensure that cities respond to the needs of everybody, including people with disabilities. Good practices are shared alongside the voices of persons with disabilities to promote understanding of key issues influencing accessibility and demonstrate how accessibility can be a catalyst for innovation and inclusion in cities. The publication was developed by the Global Network on Disability Inclusive and Accessible Urban Development (DIAUD) and launched during UN Habitat III. The DIAUD is a multi-stakeholder network that aims to ensure that perspectives of persons with disabilities are incorporated into global urban development processes, including the implementation of the New Urban Agenda.

Hugues Nouvellet (2014) Conduct an Accessibility Audit in Low and Middle-Income Countries: Practical Guide 13

This guide to the implementation of an accessibility audit in low- and middle-income countries outlines key stages in an accessibility audit and provides examples on how people with disabilities and partners can conduct and report on accessibility. The guide is in two parts, the first part provides definitions and related concepts, issues and challenges relating to accessibility, the principles of intervention and the scope. The second part is a practical guide which advises each stage of the audit: preparation, execution and implementation.

Making it Work: Good practices for disability inclusive development - Good practice database

This database is a collection of good practice case studies on how to implement the UNCRPD. The database can be searched via UNCRPD Articles and key words. Case studies outline good practices, how changes were achieved and how they could be replicated. There are currently a number of case studies related to accessible infrastructure.

AusAID (2013) Accessibility Design Guide: Universal design principles for Australia's aid program, registration number 13

This manual sets out how universal design is relevant to the Australian Aid management cycle. It highlights the central role that persons with disabilities and Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) should play in development actions which target the built environment. It includes a range of practical strategies that development practitioners can consider when applying universal design in a range of development sectors, including health, education, transport and rural development.

ISO International Organization for Standardization (ISO)

This website contains a wide range of standards on accessibility, including those relating to the physical environment or information and communication technology, to improve accessibility for everyone. ISOs are developed through a consensus process by experts from all over the world. Current standards include ISO Guide 71: Guide for addressing accessibility in standards (2014), ISO 21542: Building construction - Accessibility and usability of the built environment (2011); ISO 7001:2007 Graphical symbols - Public information symbols; ISO 9241-171 Ergonomics of human-system interactions, Part 171 guidance on Software accessibility (2008). These are useful documents to refer government and policy makers to as they outline requirements and recommendations to accessible environments. Note these are only available via purchase of a subscription.

Whitzman C, James K and Powaseu I (2013) Travelling together: Improving the access of people with disability to road infrastructure in Papua New Guinea

This research policy brief is informed by the results of a participatory research project into access to road infrastructure by persons with disabilities in Papua New Guinea. It presents key access issues and makes policy and program recommendations relevant for donors and organisations implementing projects that impact on road users, both in PNG and other settings.

This toolkit provides a series of checklists, for practical recommendations on typical building elements that should comply with accessibility requirements (entrances, doors, staircases, toilets, etc.). It also provides basic insights on accessible vehicles and playgrounds.

This toolkit provides best practice examples and case studies of how to prepare and conduct accessibility assessments, according to the situation and context.

This toolkit aims to build learning of accessibility in construction projects across all programme areas, including education, child protection, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). It includes several best practice case studies by UNICEF.

This toolkit provides strategies to advocate for accessibility with stakeholders and partners (tips, FAQs) and arguments to reply to common objections and preconceived ideas (misconceptions).

This video, created by Leonard Cheshire Disability and IFRTD, highlights the barriers faced by persons with disabilities when trying to access public transport and (inaccessible) health service buildings in India. It could be used by DPOs and development practitioners to demonstrate the need to provide for accessible infrastructure, to enable persons with disabilities to access services.

UNICEF (2015) Accessibility and Universal Design: Access to the School and Learning Environments

This webinar provides an insightful overview of accessibility concerns and priorities within education and schools.

UNICEF (2013) Universal Design

Watch this video explaining what is 'Universal Design', and why it is important.

Picture of a man in a wheelchair stopped at a curb. Another man is bending over measuring the curb height with a tape measure.

Photo: Benjamin Dard, 2011

Accessibility Audits in the urban environment: In order to sensitize architects and engineers, CBM Haiti’s accessibility program conducted disability simulation exercises in the urban environment using accessibility audits to identify physical and attitudinal barriers (Port-au-Prince, Haiti). Copyright: CBM