Accessible infrastructure and communications

Persons with disabilities face many obstacles in accessing the physical environment and information and communications, which prevent them from fully exercising their rights and participating in social, cultural and economic life on an equal basis with others.

As services are usually provided from within the built environment, inaccessible infrastructure can limit a person’s access to education, health services and employment, to financial institutions and government services, to law and justice institutions, to polling places, to places of cultural and social activity and to wider participation in family and community life. Inaccessible roads and public transport mean that persons with disabilities also have reduced capacity to travel to access services, or face higher costs associated with private transport options.

Ensuring accessible infrastructure is therefore a critical part of ensuring access to such services. Further, communications and infrastructure that are universally accessible provide benefits to everyone including older people, pregnant women and children.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) Article 9 (Accessibility) requires that States Parties take measures to ensure that information, communications and infrastructure such as buildings roads, indoor and outdoor facilities (including schools, housing, medical facilities, workplaces and transport), and electronic and emergency services, are accessible to persons with disabilities. States Parties should ensure that development cooperation supports and promotes this right to access.

Resources in this section focus on the right to accessible infrastructure and inclusive information and communications technologies and includes position papers, case studies and practical guidance.

UNDESA 2016 Good Practices of Accessible Urban Development

This is a collection of case studies from different geographical regions which illustrate what good practice in promoting accessibility and the inclusion of persons with disabilities in various urban development contexts. The document includes case studies on housing and built environment, transportation, and strategies and innovations for promoting accessible urban development. There are also overall recommendations included for promoting accessible and inclusive urban development.

Argawal, A. & Steele, A. (2016) Disability considerations for infrastructure programmes

This study summarises evidence of the impact of inaccessible infrastructure on people with disabilities, particularly in the areas of transport, information and communications technology, water and sanitation, and energy. It provides recommendations on applying the principles of universal design, accessibility standards, consultation with people with disabilities, inclusive procurement policies, and monitoring the accessibility of infrastructure projects.

Whitzman C, James K and Powaseu I (2013) Travelling Together: Disability Inclusive Road Development in Papua New Guinea

The Travelling Together research took place in Papua New Guinea in 2010–13. The research investigated: the positive and negative impacts of roads on the lives of people with disability, involvement of people with disability in road planning and recommended approaches for engaging people with disability in consultations, planning and management of road and transport infrastructure. Research findings can be used to inform guidelines for road and transport infrastructure planners and implementers on how to include people with disability and better understand their needs as road users; and by people with disability and Disabled Persons Organisations (DPOs) to inform advocacy and advice regarding disability inclusion. This website provides background to the research in addition to several research reports documenting the research findings.

World Health Organization and World Bank (2011) World Report on Disability - Chapter 6: Enabling environments

This chapter provides an overview of the environmental barriers that persons with disabilities face in accessing the physical environment and information and communications. The report highlights high level measures that can be used to improve access. This chapter should be read in conjunction with recommendations set out in Chapter 9 of the report. The report is useful for donors, governments, implementing organisations and Disabled People’s Organisations in targeting policy change.

Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2014) General comment No. 2 (2014) Article 9: Accessibility

The General Comment No 2 provides foundational guidance on understanding and implementing Article 9: Accessibility, of the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The general comment emphasises the importance of accessibility as a precondition to inclusion and equal participation in society. The comment on accessibility includes discussion on access to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communication, including information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public. The comment was developed after consultation with and subsequent submissions from persons with disabilities, DPOs, national human rights institutions and other stakeholders.

This case study provides an example of how the Kissy Eye Hospital in Freetown, Sierra Leone, completed simple, low cost renovations to become more accessible for people with disabilities, particularly those with vision impairment. The Hospital used a guideline to identify potential barriers to access, and then developed simple, low cost solutions. These included repainting walls and doors with high contrast colours and making large, easy to read signs. The result demonstrates that considering universal design principles makes the hospital more user-friendly for all people, not only those with vision impairment.

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Picture of a man silhouetted in a doorway. He is walking down a hallway on 3 continuous ceramic strips. He is using a mobility cane.

Photo: Frédéric Dupoux, 2010

The Société Haitienne d’Aide aux Aveugles, a local DPO, was the first building in Haiti to be equipped with tactile guide way. The tactile guide way is based on good design principles and good practices at the international level. The use of ceramics was developed locally because of its availability, the low cost and ease of fitting and maintenance. This tactile guide way is an innovating practice that can be duplicated in low income countries. Copyright: CBM