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What Have We Learnt About Building Post-Pandemic Cities for All? – SB News


Natalia Gutiérrez and Claudia Casas

Published 1 hour from now.
About a 6 minute read.

Image: All of London’s black cabs are now wheelchair-accessible | Cab Direct

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Mobility is a fundamental aspect of cities; and a city only evolves when all of its inhabitants can fully participate in it. Inclusive urban mobility and accessible technologies are some of the best allies to forge cities for all and to improve the life of seniors and people with disabilities.

Since their Greek origin as polis, cities were
forged to create efficient, liveable communities — owing to
advantages
such as access to safe water, beneficial geographic locations, and strong social
settings. Cities reduced transport costs for goods, people and ideas by bringing
them all together in one spot; while centralizing protection, opportunities and
development levers.

Still, nowadays some of the most important
challenges

humanity faces today and will face in the future — including
COVID-19, social
exclusion, discrimination and marginalization, and the climate crisis — happen
in cities. Over the next years, with 68 percent of the
people

in the world living in them, cities will shape every aspect of global
development

— including the manner in how human rights are won and implemented. That is why
Cities for All — the global campaign for inclusive
and accessible cities — advocates fostering human diversity, social inclusion
and equality as increasing priorities for a truly sustainable future.

An inclusive and accessible
city

is a place where everyone — regardless of economic means, gender, ethnicity,
disability, age, sexual identity, migration status or religion — is enabled and
empowered to fully participate in the social, economic, cultural and political
opportunities cities offer. Today, persons with disabilities and older persons
make up 25 percent of the global
population

— projected to represent 2 billion persons by 2050. Hence, fighting against
existing barriers and allowing their effective inclusion will represent an
enormous opportunity.

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For people with disabilities, their potential for engagement and participation
in urban life is limited — driven by lack of access to
services

such as transportation, public spaces, employment and education. Mobility is a
fundamental aspect of cities; and a city only evolves when all of its
inhabitants can fully participate in it. The lack of proper access to transport
or public services seriously undermines the economic stability and health of
those with reduced mobility or any kind of cognitive impairment — including
seniors. It is vital in this context to build public-private partnerships
providing customized solutions to transform the urban fabric and design
multimodal programs — such as policies that promote universal accessibility and
improve access to urban areas, safe public spaces or social inclusion programs.
We have to work together to eliminate all barriers; since in the future, not
only more people will live in urban spaces, they will also live longer.

Many public authorities and companies have already implemented solutions to
facilitate access to transportation for people with
disabilities
.
In New York City, the MTA offers free travel
training to all travelers with disabilities, so they can learn to use the bus
and subway independently. They can also refer to the MTA Guide to Accessible
Transit
.
In London, all black cabs are
wheelchair accessible
.
Some of the newer black cabs are also fitted with induction loops and intercoms
for hearing aid users.

At Cabify, we have offered an app and service that is
100 percent accessible to the visually impaired
since 2019. Latest updates of our app include the activation of a menu for
accessibility settings and an optimization for screen readers such as
TalkBack (Android) or VoiceOver (iOs); and we have trained our
drivers on protocols to assist visually impaired passengers.

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We have teamed up with NGOs such as the CNSE (State
Confederation of Deaf Persons
) and EmancipaTIC
(association promoting inclusion for the elderly) in order to best understand
and cater to the needs of these communities. Over 33,000 users with established
accessibility preferences on their smartphones currently use Cabify; and with
the aim of ensuring their access to mobility, we are permanently keeping
accessibility matters front and centre during the design of every app feature.

Inclusive urban mobility and accessible technologies are some of the best allies
to forge cities for all and to improve the life of seniors and people with
disabilities. When technology is accessible, each user can use it in ways that
best work for him or her. Accessible technology is either directly accessible —
whereby it is usable without additional assistive technology (AT) — or it is
compatible with
AT.

For example, a mobile smartphone with a built-in screen reader is directly
accessible, whereas a website that can be navigated effectively by people with
visual impairments using a screen reader is AT-compatible. Significant advances
in machine learning and artificial intelligence in recent years are creating new
possibilities. Live
Transcribe
, for
example, is an Android app that captures real-time speech and lets users read
what people around them are saying.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown and placed even greater emphasis on the
importance of freedom of movement. This crisis has deepened pre-existing
inequalities — exposing the extent of exclusion, and highlighting the imperative
to tackle disability inclusion. People with disabilities are one of the most
excluded groups in our society and are among the hardest hit in this crisis;
it’s difficult for the disabled to
travel
,
even when there is no pandemic to contend with; while communicating without lips
to read is an extra challenge for hearing-impaired people. Blind people have
also faced barriers, such as distancing measures that make it impossible to hold
on to a person when needed.

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These facts may be daunting, but it is in times of need that innovation
flourishes. To better ensure universal access, the World Economic Forum and
Hyundai Group
are
collaborating to examine the core principles for inclusive mobility — as part of
the Inclusivity Quotient project, which seeks to expand financially
sustainable mobility for the socio-economic development of underserved people.
Under the COVID-19 framework, we launched Cabify’s accessibility protocol to
adapt our service — which is unique in our sector at the global level; and
delineates the best approach to ensure a safe, best-in-class service for senior,
blind and deaf riders.

Inequities lead to the formation of transport-disadvantaged groups — such as
elderly, disabled and low-income people. Accessibility must consist of a
continuous vision — adapting to new technologies, cities and society. We do not
know the challenges that lie ahead, just that mobility will remain a crucial
universal right; and we must work towards developing urban mobility plans that
take into account all accessibility needs.





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