URBAN OCTOBER 2020: Housing for All
As part of UN-HABITATs Housing for All Campaign, WBU would like to highlight the introductory paragraph of a 2017 report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, which specifically address the rights of persons with disabilities to adequate housing: “For persons with disabilities, choosing where and with whom to live, being part of a community and having access to adequate and accessible housing are central to a life of dignity, autonomy, participation, inclusion, equality and respect for diversity. The indivisibility and interdependence of the right to adequate housing with other human rights are at the heart of the lived experience of persons with disabilities.” Read the full report on the OHCHR website.
Week 1: Health (importance of adequate housing to mitigate health risks)
Access to adequate housing, which is accessible, affordable, adequate, acceptable and of quality is critical to mitigate both short-term and long-term health risks for all, not least persons with disabilities including those who are blind or partially sighted. In WBU’s recent COVID-19 report we found that restrictions in many places left persons who are blind and partially sighted feeling isolated, anxious, sharing stories about deterring mental health conditions. This was especially true for those who experienced mental health issues prior to the pandemic. The ability to take active part in ones’ community and have a sense of belonging is directly impacted by ones’ living condition and housing situation. Even financially accessing adequate housing options can be a challenge for many who may also have higher health costs. Hence safeguarding equitable access to social protection schemes have a direct impact on ones health and housing situation.
Week 2 – Dignity
Dignity and the right to live independently in the community in the way you choose is the backbone of the CRPD. Still persons with disabilities often face institutionalisation in many settings, lack recognised legal capacity or are at higher risk of homelessness due to widespread misconceptions or discrimination. Lack of adequate, safe, and accessible housing options further exacerbates homelessness and the right to live in dignity for many. It is estimated that around 50 per cent of the world’s homeless population could experience different psychosocial disabilities.
Week 3 – Safety – Resilience/climate change
A safe and secure home is the first line of defense in the pandemic (Habitat one):
Enjoyment of adequate housing is a cornerstone in peoples’ everyday life and key to ensure one can live safe & secure. Safety is also about the long-term resiliency of cities and communities to mitigate future risks of disasters and environmental hazards. The housing sector globally is undergoing a greening revolution to mitigate future risks of climate change and the ecological footprint of such buildings. It is equally critical that accessibility standards and Universal Design principles are integrated into green buildings and housing to reduce the resource-demanding needs of retrofitting to cope with population changes and production of unnecessary waste. Ensuring that public housing is accessible for persons with disabilities is not only an obligation of States Parties to the CRPD, it increase the safety and resiliency of all.
Week 4 – Inclusion
Accessibility is a right and precondition for persons with disabilities live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life and is fundamental to foster the full inclusion of persons with disabilities, including persons who are blind and partially sighted. States are obliged to identify and remove barriers to ensure accessibility, also when it comes to housing for all. To effectively succeed in implementing the right to housing for persons with disabilities, the active involvement of persons with disabilities through their representative organisations, in the implementation of legislation and policy, is specifically highlighted in CRPD Article 4(3). This provides the chance to benchmark practices towards ensuring the enjoyment of the right to housing. (Read more: Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, 2017 Para 39,42)
Week 5 – Well-being
Access to adequate, safe, and accessible housing contributes to the stability for persons with disabilities to enjoy opportunities to live, work and learn. Housing is not just a roof, but the cornerstone of people’s wellbeing. The notion of barrier-free housing is often misinterpreted as only related to the set-up of a house structure, missing out on addressing the accessibility throughout the mobility chain leaving and returning to the house in safe and seamless ways. Therefore, to ensure all can live independently, housing needs to be addressed with an independent living lens and from a human-rights approach where housing is only one cornerstone of one’s life.
Notes: On Accessibility
41. Article 9 should also be read in conjunction with the obligation to progressively realize the right to adequate housing under article 28. As Gerard Quinn observed, “many of these obligations will require resources and extensive systemic change —all subject to the overall obligation of progressive achievement contained in article 4.2 with respect to socioeconomic rights”.35 The obligations of States under article 9 can be seen as components of the requirement to immediately implement inclusive rights-based strategies for the realization of the right to housing. Both housing strategies and plans for the implementation of accessibility must establish definite time frames, allocate adequate resources, prescribe the duties of the public authorities, including regional and local authorities, and private actors and ensure participation and consultation with those affected.36 Ensuring that any new housing is developed in accordance with barrier-free design requirements is an immediate obligation of States. States must also adopt, as quickly as possible, legislation and plans to ensure that barriers in existing housing are removed over time.37
In consultation with persons with disabilities and their organizations, States should prioritize and recognize in domestic law the obligation to realize the right to housing of persons with disabilities to the maximum of available re-sources, tying this legal obligation to the commitment to ensure adequate housing for all by 2030, in accordance with target 11.1 of the Sustainable Development Goals.
URBAN OCTOBER 2019 social media campaign
Dear WBU members,
WBU is delighted to launch a worldwide advocacy campaign on Accessibility in Smart Cities beginning 24 October 2019.
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and New Urban Agenda (NUA) recognize the critical importance to address accessibility to foster inclusion and participation. WBU recognizes that great challenges remain for blind and partially sighted people to access infrastructure, facilities, public spaces and basic services on an equal basis with others. Accessibility is a core priority for WBU. As part of our Global initiative on Accessibility in Smart Cities we now plan to roll out a social media campaign in October. Urban stakeholders worldwide view October as the urban month to campaign around the transformation of cities as drivers of development. WBU would like to take this opportunity to share member-driven initiatives. Download full campaign details below:
Urban October Campaign Day 1: October 24
Urban October Campaign Day 2: October 25
Our national member in South Africa, the National Council for the Blind, is currently rolling out several initiatives related to accessibility in public transport to create awareness on the challenges faced by blind and partially sighted, and the broader disability community, to access transport on an equal basis with others. South Africa and its provincial governments have legislation on the equal access to transport, but it is noted that the awareness levels among provides and municipal staff on how to translate this into practice remains low.
The Council, In a collaboration with other disability organisations and the Ministry for Transport, the Gauteng Provincial Government, Municipalities of Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni and Tshwane seek to further sensitize service providers, municipal staff and the general public on how to approach persons with diverse disabilities in the day-to-day operations, and plan for universal access to transport. Examples of activities carried out:
Joint Accessibility inspections of Bus Rapid Transport systems, regular buses, taxis, trains and airports in the above localities.
White Cane rallies across the country with a focus on access to public transport
Sensitisation of municipal staff and service providers on accessibility needs and attitudes in day-to-day commutes
Joint inspections of Tactile Guidance pathways, accessibility at bus stations and street crossings.
Note: This post is part of WBU’s campaign to share examples from our members on initiatives undertaken to address accessibility in urban development.
Also check out this children’s song and video
created to help sighted people understand a little about the visually-impaired person’s white cane and to encourage its use by those who will benefit most.
Urban October Campaign Day 3: October 28
WBU is delighted to share a new best practices publication on the Accessibility of mobility for blind and partially sighted persons published by our regional member; the European Blind Union. The brochure documents best practices towards independent and safe mobility from across Europe. It is structured in three clusters, which reflect important and interlocking areas of accessible mobility: legislation and standards, built environment and infrastructure and digital solutions. The full document is available in various languages on EBU website
Urban October Campaign Day 4: October 29
WBU member, the Eritrean National Association of the Blind (ERNAB) along with our worldwide membership is working towards breaking environmental, attitudinal and institutional barriers faced by blind and partially sighted persons to access services and spaces on an equal basis with others. ERNAB reports of recent landmark achievements in Eritrea when it comes to the promotion of accessibility for persons with disabilities. ERNAB has contributed greatly to the development of comprehensive national policy guidelines for rights of persons with disabilities. Together with other stakeholders, ERNAB has been engaged in sensitisation initiatives to create awareness about these guidelines by holding a plethora of workshops in the country and mass media campaigns.
ERNAB has also made great strides to specifically highlight the importance of White Canes through workshops and puppet shows in schools where pupils with visual impairment have demonstrated to other children the critical use of a White Cane and what difference it makes in one’s mobility and independence. ERNAB continues to distribute White Canes and to sensitise the public about the importance of safe and accessible environment for blind and partially sighted persons.
Urban October Campaign Day 5: October 30
WBU Platinum Sponsor, the CNIB foundation (Canadian Institute for the Blind) is spearheading various initiatives to promote more accessible and inclusive cities and neighborhoods across Canada. In Toronto, for example, the CNIB has established the “BlindSquare Enabled” project to help make businesses welcoming for blind and partially sighted persons. About 200 local businesses in the city have installed beacons in their spaces. The beacons connect to the BlindSquare GPS app on an iPhone or iPad to give a spoken description of the business, including store name, layout and what it sells. With the help of GPS information provided through the beacons, persons with sight loss can easily navigate their way from subway station, through streets, businesses and the neighbourhood as described in this “Blind Square experience
CNIB has also established a ‘BlindSquare Enabled’ project in Downtown Regina where the city has become easier to navigate for people who are blind or partially sighted. “For CNIB the goal of this project was to make downtown more accessible and inclusive for people with vision loss. We also wanted to help community members understand that wayfinding technology like this enables people with vision loss to navigate independently,” said Christall Beaudry executive director of CNIB Foundation Saskatchewan. Find out more on CNIB Foundation website
Urban October Campaign Day 6: October 31
Urban Accessibility Initiatives in New Zealand
Example 1: Safe and accessible footpaths.
Blind & Low Vision New Zealand has been advocating for safe and #accessible footpaths, following the introduction of rental e-scooter trials onto city streets a year ago. Taking the position that e-scooters should not be ridden on the footpath to ensure pedestrian safety, Blind & Low Vision NZ invited clients in impacted cities to participate in a survey. Receiving 210 responses, 84% agreed with the e-scooter position and many had stories to tell about concern with e-scooters left lying around posing a trip hazard and having accidents themselves. The results have helped Blind & Low Vision NZ raise awareness about the concerns of blind and low vision persons with the general public, and gained support as a trusted commentator on the topic in the media. The trial outcomes are still pending and Blind & Low Vision NZ is lobbying with advocacy group Living Streets Aotearoa with a petition to prevent e-scooters from being on the footpaths. Blind & Low Vision NZ plans to continue raising concerns and having a voice on this topic to seek a solution that enables micro-mobility and pedestrian safety to co-exist in a future of accessible and smart cities. Read more on the Blind & Low Vision NZ website
Example 2: AccessLaw2020 – Access Matters campaign to put Accessibility Legislation at the heart of more inclusive Aotearoa New Zealand
Meanwhile, Blind & Low Vision NZ is a proud member of the Access Alliance and its Access Matters campaign. The Access Matters campaign is seeking the introduction of Accessibility legislation to create a more inclusive New Zealand.
“We were ecstatic in December 2018 when the New Zealand Government signed off on a major accessibility work programme to thoroughly explore how we achieve full accessibility for disabled people and all New Zealanders. The Access Alliance has been co-designing the next phase with government, alongside raising awareness with businesses and the public about the need for and benefits of accessibility in all parts of life. An accessible Aotearoa means that our public buildings and spaces are universally designed and do the job they are supposed to do. To get an accessibility law in this term of government, we need it to be seen as an urgent priority, from the Minister for Disability Issues, and across the New Zealand Government. We need to put Accessibility on the agenda for the 2020.”
Blind & Low Vision NZ is urging the public to add their voice to the call for #AccessLaw2020
by using the Access Matters social media action page
and the social media toolkit with suggested messages and images to share.
Urban October Campaign Day: November 1
Closing remarks by WBU Treasurer, Ms. Martine Abel-Williamson, of New Zealand, also chair of the WBU Access to the Environment Committee.
CITIES FOR ALL: Global Compact on Inclusive and Accessible Cities
The “Cities for All” Network emerged out of the need for the voices of the global disability community in local and international decision-making processes guiding urban planning and development. The “Cities for All” Network strategic planning and engagements are directly influencing urban development processes. The Global Compact on Inclusive and Accessible Cities is a declaration that aligns key commitments to accessibility, universal design and inclusion within The Sustainable Development Goals, The New Urban Agenda, The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the WHO’s Age Friendly Cities Initiative.
It affirms the rights of 1 billion persons with disabilities and the increasing share of the global population aged 60 or older that experience barriers to their equitable participation in society. Half of all persons with disabilities and older persons around the world now live in towns and cities, and these groups are estimated to number over 2 billion persons in cities worldwide by 2050. This global call for action lays at the core of the #Cities4All campaign. Signatories of the Global Compact reaffirm their determination to build cities for all and agree to actively promote and progressively realize the Universal Inclusion and Accessibility of all persons in cities and human settlements; particularly older persons and all persons with disabilities-including persons with psychosocial, intellectual and developmental disabilities. Read more on the campaign’s website.