Inclusive Smart Cities

The Asian Development Bank defined making a city more “inclusive” as: “ensuring the poor and vulnerable have access to the services they need to better their quality of life.” With the onset of rapid urbanization and growing inequality, cities and governments have taken notice and decided to make infrastructural changes that will help improve quality of life for all. The ADB lists its key elements of creating this inclusive city: urban environmental infrastructure development, climate change adaptation and mitigation, and poverty reduction measures. While these are all broad, their goals reflect those of cities around the world.

Inclusive smart cities can refer to inclusivity in many different ways. The most common picture of these cities is the modernization that is occurring in many cities and the introduction of technology to different aspects of urban living to increase efficiency. Sensors are being added to trash trucks to sort recycling and trash and collect data that will optimize a cities waste program. But, the push to walk buttons that shout “WAIT” are also an example. These technologies are inclusive of blind citizens and people with other disabilities. Inclusive cities are a crucial component of inclusive development because 68% of the world population will be living in cities by 2050. Cities need to be accessible and offer services to all of their citizens.

Inclusive cities and the CRPD intersect at many points, the first being Article 9-Accessibility. Making sure a city is accessible to all is one of the most important parts of making it inclusive; that includes public transportation, parks, buildings, roads, etc. I think Washington DC does an adequate of this in terms of public transportation. They have the metro shuttles that take riders to different stations if elevators are broken or non-existent, and the buses have ramp access and seating for persons with disabilities. Another intersection is Article 19- Living Independently and Being Included in Community; this article states services should be accessible to persons with disabilities as they are to the general population and that everyone should have many residential options. This is something I believe we need to improve in the US; new building codes usually mandate that there be ramps and elevators, however lots of old buildings do not have these especially in cities. One last example in the CRPD is Article 30- Participation in Cultural Life, Recreation and Sport. Making accessible recreation spaces and sporting venues is essential for inclusion, and I know even in my small hometown of Auburn, Alabama one of the main attractions is our football stadium which was built in the 1970’s and is very accessible to persons with disabilities.