In an article on the UN’s official site, it has been stated that by 2050, there will be an estimated of 6.25billion people living in the Urban centers, 15% of which, will be the population with disabilities. This poses the question whether our cities are ready to provide an accessible living for this section of the population.
The main barriers for physically disabled are the blocked wheelchair ramps, buildings without lifts, inaccessible toilets, shops without step-free access. Due to these, the disabled people are less likely to socialise or work without accessible transport. Cities also miss out on economic gains: in the UK the “purple pound” is worth £212bn, and the accessible-tourism market an estimated £12bn.
Many major cities of the developed nations are investing in the construction of accessible housing societies, offices, transport, rail and bus stations, hotels and almost every place in and around the city. There is a need for following the changes, to give a more independent life to people with mobility issues.
- On the technical front, there is a need for navigational apps like AccessMap (At present, this app is available in Seattle only) which enables disabled users in planning the accessible trips on pedestrian ways with more useful data like sidewalks specifications, curb ramps, constructions information, street crossings, elevation etc.
- The official building design structure must feature column-free spaces and a low concierge counter to help disabled people move around the building more easily.
- Lift doors must stay open for a longer period to provide enough transit time to disables.
- Handrails flank should be placed on both sides of the staircases, and the chairs must have grab handles.
- For the people with hearing impairments, a hearing induction loop at the places in the city enables clearer communication.
- Braille directions, tactile guidance and easy-to-read pictographs will be helpful for the visually impaired.
- An aerial ropeway and climbing wall for wheelchair users and an integrated pulley system is a modern transportation method for people with limited mobility.
- The homes, offices, restaurants and hotel rooms can be equipped with electronic curtains, ceiling hoists (equipment laid on the ceiling that helps disabled people to move inside the house without using wheelchair all the time), beds that can be automatically raised or reclined, adjustable height sinks and accessible baths/toilets (Click here to check what is included as the accessible bathrooms).
- Drive-through lifts can help people with a wheelchair to exit the lift without having to turn around.
- Install tactile knobs on railings so that the blind people can easily tell which floor they are on.
- The toilets at public places must have changing placing facility.
- The movie theatres should have flexible seating for the groups of disables.
The efforts are being shown; Last year, Chester in north-west England became the first British city to win the European commission’s Access City award. Along with easily accessible commuting structures and buildings, Chester has provisions for users to receive audio cues via their smart phones, providing directions or real-time information about issues such as escalator outages and advice such as: “Approaching three escalators on left. The second escalator has limited access- it does not go to the level 0.”
It’s the small things that count.