Accessible infrastructure and communications

Persons with disabilities face many obstacles in accessing the physical environment and information and communications, which prevent them from fully exercising their rights and participating in social, cultural and economic life on an equal basis with others.

As services are usually provided from within the built environment, inaccessible infrastructure can limit a person’s access to education, health services and employment, to financial institutions and government services, to law and justice institutions, to polling places, to places of cultural and social activity and to wider participation in family and community life. Inaccessible roads and public transport mean that persons with disabilities also have reduced capacity to travel to access services, or face higher costs associated with private transport options.

Ensuring accessible infrastructure is therefore a critical part of ensuring access to such services. Further, communications and infrastructure that are universally accessible provide benefits to everyone including older people, pregnant women and children.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) Article 9 (Accessibility) requires that States Parties take measures to ensure that information, communications and infrastructure such as buildings roads, indoor and outdoor facilities (including schools, housing, medical facilities, workplaces and transport), and electronic and emergency services, are accessible to persons with disabilities. States Parties should ensure that development cooperation supports and promotes this right to access.

Resources in this section focus on the right to accessible infrastructure and inclusive information and communications technologies and includes position papers, case studies and practical guidance.

UNDESA 2018 Disability and Development Report

Chapter II, Section G of this report explores SDG 7 and the situation and disproportionate impacts for people with disabilities related to the lack of access to energy. It presents best practices, and proposes recommendations to help achieve universal access to energy. Chapter II, Section J of the report addresses SDG 11 and discusses the inclusiveness of cities and human settlements for persons with disabilities, particularly the following four areas: housing; transport; sustainable urbanisation; and public spaces. National policies and best practices are presented and recommendations proposed on how cities can be made more inclusive and accessible.

Humanity & Inclusion, World Enabled 2018 Safe and inclusive mobility

This research study focuses on the effects of inaccessible infrastructure and unsafe road conditions on people with disabilities living in cities in developing countries. The findings of the research are presented in a policy brief and overarching recommendations on how to improve safe and inclusive urban mobility for all. There are also four thematic briefs on inclusive mobility and its linkages with road safety, getting to school, getting to work, and disaster risk management. The thematic briefs include case studies from Burkina Faso, Senegal, Vietnam, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti and Nepal.

UNESCAP (2019) Disability at a Glance 2019: Investing in Accessibility in Asia and the Pacific -

This report explains the importance of increasing investment in accessibility. It outlines the demographic drivers for investing in accessibility, and the resulting economic benefits and broader sustainable development outcomes. The report provides an overview of tools and approaches for successful investment in accessibility. It also analyses the trends in improving accessibility across Asia and the Pacific, and presents case studies on national accessibility legislations as well as good practice examples in improving accessibility through programs investments. Recommendations are provided to governments for improving accessibility in Asia and the Pacific.

UNDESA 2016 Good Practices of Accessible Urban Development

This is a collection of case studies from different geographical regions which illustrate what good practice in promoting accessibility and the inclusion of persons with disabilities in various urban development contexts. The document includes case studies on housing and built environment, transportation, and strategies and innovations for promoting accessible urban development. There are also overall recommendations included for promoting accessible and inclusive urban development.

Argawal, A. & Steele, A. (2016) Disability considerations for infrastructure programmes

This study summarises evidence of the impact of inaccessible infrastructure on people with disabilities, particularly in the areas of transport, information and communications technology, water and sanitation, and energy. It provides recommendations on applying the principles of universal design, accessibility standards, consultation with people with disabilities, inclusive procurement policies, and monitoring the accessibility of infrastructure projects.

Whitzman C, James K and Powaseu I (2013) Travelling Together: Disability Inclusive Road Development in Papua New Guinea

The Travelling Together research took place in Papua New Guinea in 2010–13. The research investigated: the positive and negative impacts of roads on the lives of people with disability, involvement of people with disability in road planning and recommended approaches for engaging people with disability in consultations, planning and management of road and transport infrastructure. Research findings can be used to inform guidelines for road and transport infrastructure planners and implementers on how to include people with disability and better understand their needs as road users; and by people with disability and Disabled Persons Organisations (DPOs) to inform advocacy and advice regarding disability inclusion. This website provides background to the research in addition to several research reports documenting the research findings.

World Health Organization and World Bank (2011) World Report on Disability - Chapter 6: Enabling environments

This chapter provides an overview of the environmental barriers that persons with disabilities face in accessing the physical environment and information and communications. The report highlights high level measures that can be used to improve access. This chapter should be read in conjunction with recommendations set out in Chapter 9 of the report. The report is useful for donors, governments, implementing organisations and Disabled People’s Organisations in targeting policy change.

Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2014) General comment No. 2 (2014) Article 9: Accessibility

The General Comment No 2 provides foundational guidance on understanding and implementing Article 9: Accessibility, of the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The general comment emphasises the importance of accessibility as a precondition to inclusion and equal participation in society. The comment on accessibility includes discussion on access to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communication, including information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public. The comment was developed after consultation with and subsequent submissions from persons with disabilities, DPOs, national human rights institutions and other stakeholders.

This case study explores the state of inclusive and accessible environments for persons with disabilities in Varanasi, India, through engagement with policy, industry and community stakeholders (policy, practice and people). The research identifies challenges and opportunities for implementing inclusive and accessible design in Varanasi and makes recommendations on local actions towards becoming a more inclusive city.

This is a case study on the state of accessibility and inclusion in the built environment in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. It identifies key barriers and recommended actions to foster an inclusive Ulaanbaatar.

Global Infrastructure Hub, 2019 TransMilenio Bus Rapid Transit

This case study reflects on the role and responsibility a transport infrastructure project can have in creating a more inclusive society. Columbia's TransMilenio Bus Rapid Transit has evolved from its original mission of providing mass transport services to collaborating with other agencies to lead the inclusion agenda for the citizens of Bogotá. In recent years, it has incorporated inclusive and social governance into its operations and administration.

This case study is an example of how an infrastructure investment in Samoa funded by the World Bank and Government of Australia is improving the accessibility of roads and climate resilience for people with disabilities. Under the Enhanced Road Access Project (ERAP), access guidelines from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment were used as a reference for road and bridge work, and access audits were undertaken by people with disabilities and representatives of Nuanua o le Alofa (NOLA) to determine where improvements could be made to the design.

This case study provides an example of how the Kissy Eye Hospital in Freetown, Sierra Leone, completed simple, low cost renovations to become more accessible for people with disabilities, particularly those with vision impairment. The Hospital used a guideline to identify potential barriers to access, and then developed simple, low cost solutions. These included repainting walls and doors with high contrast colours and making large, easy to read signs. The result demonstrates that considering universal design principles makes the hospital more user-friendly for all people, not only those with vision impairment.

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Picture of a man silhouetted in a doorway. He is walking down a hallway on 3 continuous ceramic strips. He is using a mobility cane.

Photo: Frédéric Dupoux, 2010

The Société Haitienne d’Aide aux Aveugles, a local DPO, was the first building in Haiti to be equipped with tactile guide way. The tactile guide way is based on good design principles and good practices at the international level. The use of ceramics was developed locally because of its availability, the low cost and ease of fitting and maintenance. This tactile guide way is an innovating practice that can be duplicated in low income countries. Copyright: CBM