As a child, Crystal Asige, grew up fully sighted; diagnosed as a young adult with glaucoma, a progressive degenerative disease that affects their eyesight, she began to become more active in the disability rights movement. “Many people don’t understand why they’re doing what they’re doing,” the Diversity Equity & Inclusion Consultant and Disability Rights Advocacy based in Nairobi, Kenya told the hosts of the Talking Transport Transformation podcast. That includes those who are involved in urban planning and design.
“Unfortunately we face a lot of ableism,” she says as she explains the importance of thinking of those who live with disabilities while undertaking planning and design. By not taking the needs of the population who live with a disability into consideration, however, they are neglecting millions of people who could benefit from, among other things, public transportation.
“It’s painful and heartbreaking to see people around you be able to access things and go anywhere and do whatever they like while you sort of remain stuck and you have to think five or steps ahead of you. It’s unfair.”
But what does equitable mobility look like? Neil Taylor, Managing Director at Integrated Transport Planning Ltd. distills best practices from around the world to get a better idea of what answers exist to the problems that those who live with disabilities might face. For a city to be accessible and inclusive, he says, there needs to be a common space with shade and seats to sit and feel calm and there has to be plenty of toilets that are clean and easy to find. Mobilizing by walking or wheeling safely without getting lost, even without visual cues, are likewise important. Perhaps most prominent, however, is the need for affordable public transport that is easy to find and staffed with friendly and helpful personnel.
Those needs, Crystal emphasizes, exist no matter where a person lives in the world, and they should be as readily accommodated for people who live in Africa as for those who make another place home. Millions across the continent are living with disabilities and relying on public transport; they deserve to have access to transport as much as anyone else yet they are often confined to their homes as the result of not knowing how they can travel away from home.
Making inclusive cities possible, however, requires financial capital (money), social capital (making people care), and knowledge of how to make it work. Crystal and Neil have been working together for several months to determine how best to respond to those challenges and determine what solutions are optimal for offering inclusive mobility. They spoke to the TUMI team about their findings on a recent podcast, which you can listen to on our website here.