Dubai is known for its modernist architecture and is a prestigious and popular tourist attraction, yet is it really accessible to everyone?
More than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas. It is projected by 2050 there will be approximately 2.5 billion more people added to our urban areas. In order also to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development goals, we need a systemic and seismic change across our societies. We need to work together, taking a multi-level, trans-disciplinary, integrated approach to achieve more equitable, inclusive, accessible and sustainable, gender equal cities. The ‘wicked problems’ are an opportunity to co-design with others, from policy makers to change-makers and citizens. How can inclusive cities be implemented and achieved? Some essential issues concerning basic human rights and how they are being implemented currently include discrimination, social exclusion, and marginalization. Due to these issues, it becomes difficult for people with disabilities to claim equal access to opportunities and facilities in urban areas and some city buildings. These issues have impacted human diversity, equality, and social inclusion in our societies.
Dubai is one of the major cities of the world. However, despite the iconic nature of the nation, the issue of density and diversity of people can be seen in most public spaces. For example, placemaking in Dubai is carefully packaged to offer highly exclusive experiences for wealthy consumers. Dubai’s lower-income people, mainly composed of immigrants, are effectively denied access to these places, and security measures are implemented to keep it so. In addition, Dubai has recently focused on placemaking, in which their main goal is a recreation of traditional urban life in which they are setting the place for the rich, both Emiratis and wealthy tourists.
The universal agenda of 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), however, includes a demonstration of the scale and ambition in which they pledge that no one should be left behind. As an iconic nation, Dubai has shared its visions and commitments to ensure that the city will be disability-friendly. They term the nation as ‘a city for everyone’ initiative, with the government successfully implementing Dubai’s disability strategy and creating solutions to create inclusive and sustainable practices and space.
In the efforts of creating inclusive and sustainable practices and space, societies like Dubai are expected to structure some effective policies concerning human rights as well the convention on the rights of person with disabilities (CRPD), New Urban Agenda (NUA), Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the World Health Organization (WHO). The government of Dubai, in collaboration with Dubai Disability Strategy, has embraced responsibilities that evolve around four critical pillars.
This pillar reflects Dubai’s principle of not leaving anyone behind. The government is committed to ratifying and implementing an urban policy that prioritizes equity, affordability, and safety of access to physical, digital, and social infrastructure all over the urban planning objectives and programmes. This will ensure age, race, gender and disability will not curtail opportunity and the policy should recognize the equality of all people in the accessible and inclusive urban spaces.
Local governments are supposed to prioritize and enhance inclusive and accessible methods and environments in which all people, whether stakeholders or beneficiaries, can engage. This should primarily focus on those who face multiple barriers limiting them from participating, like older adults and persons with disability. There should be equal participation programmes that drive the development of inclusive urban planning policies and programmes. By implementing these, the government ensures socio-economic equity through having inclusive measures in schooling, health, legal, hiring practices, and productive employment.
In implementing urban strategies and policies, which protect the disabled, accessibility should be prioritized as a mechanism that guarantees participation and spaces, services and markets based on no discrimination. In prioritizing accessibility, the first step would include addressing and eliminating barriers. Such as the physical and the social infrastructures of the community or city environment. The government should consider reviewing processes and strategies to enable people to access the tools and the necessary information. This can assist citizens to fully comprehend their rights in public spaces.
Inclusive urban policies and programmes
The government should adjust its public policy agenda to become disability inclusive. In addition, the government should also localize international, national, and regional standards concerned with accessibility regulations and legislations such as the international standard organization’s ISO 71:2014 guide on accessibility, web content accessibility guidelines 2.0, and ISO 21542. These standards express a strong baseline of technical procedures.
Rozina Spinnoy is a Design Strategist and Social Entrepreneur. With a career spanning over 25 years, she has committed to co-designing inclusive, sustainable communities, working on international and local projects. She is also a community partner of the EU Commission’s,’New European Bauhaus’ initiative, with her NGO, BIDs Belgium.