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). 

Continue reading

The Role of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development

The High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) “has a central role in the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs,” according to the Sustainable Development Goals site page dedicated to the HLPF. The HLPF meets annually under the Economic and Social Council and meets every four years under the General Assembly (“High-Level Political Forum”). Notably, the Forum asks member states to “conduct regular and inclusive reviews at the national and sub-national levels, which are country-led and country-driven” (“High-Level Political Forum”). These national reviews are used by the HLPF when they conduct their review process (“High-Level Political Forum”). The HLPF works well in the sense that it allows countries to conduct their own, voluntary reviews that are used as the basis for the Forum’s review. This allows for experts, government organizations, and civil society organizations to participate in the specific country’s Voluntary National Review. Further, this allows for the report to be grounded in the country’s specific context, which is often left out in development discourse that traditionally imposes the West’s perception of global development. Country context is essential to assessing the progress of the SDGs. The HLPF could be improved to promote inclusive sustainable development by implementing accountability measures for those members on the Forum. How are these members chosen for the Forum? Do these members represent the diversity of both the SDGs (including experts on poverty, education, water, energy, etc.) and the member states (including representation from different countries in different regions)? 

Continue reading

Sen’s Development as Freedom

Conceptual frameworks are important in development studies because they provide a lens through which research is conducted, showing what types of data are needed to address the problem at hand (Sumner and Tribe 82). Frameworks also provide a more nuanced analysis of research and analysis. To begin, it may be helpful to describe Sen’s concept of development as freedom before discussing how the framework can inform disability-inclusive development projects. In simple terms, Sen’s development of freedom concept states that development should allow individuals freedoms and capabilities to live the lives they desire and value (Sen 18). Sen’s framework involves both the processes of allowing freedom of behavior and the substantive opportunities to live freely (Sen 17). In other words, development as freedom entails securing the processes by which individuals can attain freedoms and the resulting opportunities that such freedom allows. Two important reasons for prioritizing individual freedom in development are the ability to evaluate society and the promotion of societal effectiveness. Success of society can be evaluated based on the freedoms that people have (Sen 18), a view that is not utilitarian but rather is more humanizing. Freedom also determines individual motivation and hence, social effectiveness (Sen 18). Thus, people’s ability to help themselves in turn helps society. Sen’s framework aligns with the notion of development as a “friendly” process, a view that exchanges can be mutually beneficial, similar to Adam Smith’s argument regarding international trade (Sen 36). Sen’s framework highlights the need to ignore common conceptions that human development (Sen 143), the establishment of social opportunities that benefit human’s capabilities and quality of life (Sen 144), is a luxury in which only rich nations can afford to engage (Sen 143). Sen argues that this belief hinders human development globally and believes that the ability for human development to take place is not limited to a country’s economic situation. 

Continue reading

Disability-Inclusive Development as a Global Grand Challenge

In a presentation by Tom Kalil, grand challenges are defined as “ambitious yet achievable goals that capture the public’s imagination and that require innovation and breakthroughs in science and technology to achieve” (Kalil). Disability-inclusive development can be considered a “global grand challenge” as the goal is “ambitious yet achievable” (Kalil) without current solutions/means to reaching the goal. The goal is ambitious as it represents a reality not currently experienced and involves making the world more accessible to persons with disabilities, a long contested issue. The fact that disability rights and accessibility have been considered a political issue has made the global grand challenge of disability-inclusive development more challenging to achieve. This goal is achievable as some progress towards reaching disability-inclusive development has been made, such as through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination based on disability and provides reasonable accommodations to employees. While the ADA represents some progress towards disability-inclusive development, there is much more progress to be made in order for such development to be truly inclusive. Kalil also writes that grand challenges “should capture the public’s imagination;” while the challenge of realizing disability-inclusive development is of public urgency, it is also one that will likely require innovation and/or scientific discovery, which is motivating and exciting. This challenge is compelling as disability-inclusivity advocacy is gaining ever-more strength in the political and social worlds today with the fight for disability inclusivity focusing on different areas, such as public policy, education, politics, and transportation. 

The USAID’s web page titled “Grand Challenges for Development” states that through USAID’s programs that involve governments, corporations, and foundations to focus on certain issues, “USAID and public and private partners bring in new voices to solve development problems.” USAID’s approach of utilizing new voices to confront grand challenges represents a model that the challenge of disability-inclusive development can follow, as diverse resources and voices that perhaps have more experience and/or knowledge on disabilities and disability-inclusivity can lead to more effective solutions to the issue. Have “new voices” been brought in to examine the grand challenge of disability-inclusive development in the past? If not, could this be a reason for why the goal of reaching disability-inclusive development has not been fully recognized? 

How do the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) promote disability-inclusive development? The United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs published an article titled “Mainstreaming disability in the development agenda” which argues that “there is a strong bidirectional link between poverty and disability.” As the first Millennium Development Goal is to “eradicate extreme poverty and hunger” while the other MDGs also aim to reduce poverty in different ways (“Millennium Development Goals and Beyond 2015”), the MDGs must have, in some way, promoted disability-inclusive development. I need to do more research to understand better the specific ways in which progress in disability-inclusive development has been achieved as a result of the MDGs and SDGs.The article states that while the MDGs brought attention to persons with disabilities, there is little discourse over the significance of how persons with disabilities are disproportionately represented in the population that the MDGs seek to help. Additionally, leaving persons with disabilities out of all development activities will hinder achieving the MDGs. I will infer that the same logic applies to achieving the SDGs: ignoring persons with disabilities when aiming to reach every SDG will hinder achieving the SDGs. I am interested in learning more about if disability-inclusivity had any explicit influence, if any, when crafting the MDGs and SDGs.

For my capstone, I am interested in incorporating my interests in global health into the discussion of disability-inclusive development and sustainable development. Sustainable Development Goal 3 aims to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages” (“Goals”). Do health and well-being include health for persons of disabilities as well? For example, are physical access, treatment, and medicines for persons with disabilities included in the promotion of health and well-being? I need to do more research on this question to understand how persons with disabilities are either included or excluded from this goal. I am interested in how health and well-being for persons with disabilities can be included in SDG 3 sustainably in regard to cost, resources/resource allocation, and longevity.