Inclusive Smart Cities

Cities can be made inclusive and accessible once old models of disability that ignore spatiality are replaced by new models of disability that address spatiality. Pineda’s article, Enabling Justice: Spatializing Disability in the Built Environment,” reaffirms the importance of how physical space and the environment can enable or disable individuals (111). Further, Pineda explains how “contemporary legal definitions of disability are not overtly spatial” (112) when spatiality is an essential part of how persons with disabilities navigate their environment. Challenging the definition of disability to include spatiality, a central component of the environment that brings about discrimination and injustice for persons with disabilities, would “radically and fundamentally alter our understanding of equal rights” (Pineda 112). Pineda offers a new socio-spatial model of disability that aims to challenge dominant models of disability, such as the charity, medical, and personal tragedy models, that assign blame to individuals and ignore the importance of the environment in hindering persons with disabilities. The socio-spatial model of disability recognizes how “physical barriers are unjust and oppressive” (Pineda 117), which reveals that under this new model of disability, personal freedom is inherently valued. In sum, cities can be made inclusive and accessible once the distribution of space is realized. Pineda argues that this recognition “is an important aspect of realizing justice for disabled persons” (122). 

Pineda’s focus on the definition of disability led me to realize that for my capstone project, I must ask, “how has disability been defined in India and in the SDGS?” This will determine how the implementation of health development programs actually entail the inclusivity of persons with disabilities that is implicitly and explicitly called for. Prior to reading Pineda’s piece, I had a completely limited understanding of models of disability. I now see clearly how different models are worthy of critique in relation to my topic and how Pineda’s socio-spatial model of disability is essential to address in my project as it ties in ideas of freedom. My chosen framework of development as freedom will complement this model of disability well, I believe.

The New Urban Agenda was adopted in Quito Ecuador in 2016 at the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Development, also known as Habitat III. Habitat III is considered to be one of the “most inclusive and innovative” of the United Nations’ conference (New Urban Agenda iv), and this inclusivity is visible in the New Urban Agenda as well. This Agenda recognizes that cities can be sources of solutions to rather than causes of global challenges (New Urban Agenda iv). In general terms, the New Urban Agenda addresses the need for sustainability in the realm of urbanization (3), stating that sustainable urban development is essential to achieving sustainable development (4). Much of the discourse in development does not explicitly address the need for sustainable urban development practices, and I find the New Urban Agenda’s sole dedication to this issue to be admirable. In the Agenda’s Section, “Quito Implementation Plan for the New Urban Agenda,” a few points make note of persons of disabilities, which I was delighted to see explicitly done. Points 34 and 36 discuss the importance of providing access to marginalized groups, point 34 addressing many marginalized groups and point 36 focusing on persons with disabilities. These two points will be very helpful in my project as I intend to focus on SDG 3 targets 3.8 and 3.c under the SDG India Index from 2018 and 2019-2020. Targets 3.8 and 3.c center around providing universal health coverage/quality health-care access and health financing/employment, respectively. Because both targets focus on access to health services for persons with disabilities, incorporating the New Urban Agenda’s points about access to essential physical and social infrastructures is relevant. Physical access to health-care as a result of creating sustainable and inclusive cities is relevant to the implementation of SDG 3, blending both inclusive and sustainable cities for persons with disabilities with inclusive and sustainable health for persons with disabilities.

Along with the New Urban Agenda, the SDGs also address inclusive and sustainable cities. SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure), SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities) SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), and SDG 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions), all address the need for urbanization to be both inclusive and sustainable. Every SDG, however, has an impact on how cities can achieve these goals. For example, SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-Being) relates to inclusive and sustainable urbanization because access to health-services involves creating a physical environment that is inclusive for all. The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction’s goal over the next 15 years is to substantially reduce disaster risk and “losses in lives, livelihoods and health in the economic, physical, social, cultural and environmental assets of persons, businesses, communities and countries” (Sendai Framework 12). This Framework addresses inclusive and sustainable cities when discussing how disaster risk prevention involves the building of physical infrastructures that are built “better from the start to withstand hazards through proper design and construction” (Sendai Framework 19). This focus on the built environment relates directly to the creation of sustainable cities, cities that can sustain themselves in the face of physical/political challenges and also sustain themselves using ethical production and consumption measures. The Sendai Framework addresses how “disaster risk reduction requires the inclusion of those ‘disproportionately affected by disasters’” such as persons with disabilities (12). The Framework’s consideration of persons with disabilities in conjunction with its promotion of building physically sustainable infrastructure illustrates its dedication to creating inclusive and sustainable cities.

The Sendai Framework is relevant to my project as I am focusing on access to health care services for persons with disabilities in India (as outlined in my chosen targets of 3.8 and 3.c), and the Framework provides information on how physical infrastructure, such as health-service buildings, must take into account communities “disproportionately affected by disasters” (12). Previously, I had not thought about how inclusive cities and the specific component of inclusive physical access is directly related to my project topic. Yet, I am excited to incorporate a new lens to my project. I plan to discuss many different frameworks, whether primarily focused on disability, inclusive cities, or health, in my paper as they will bring diverse elements of inclusive and sustainable health to the table. Frameworks I am considering including are the CRPD, the Sendai Framework, the RPDA 2016, and the Niramaya scheme.