URBANIZATION AND THE PUBLIC GOOD
We are at a historic moment in urban development. According to the United Nations, more than half of the world's population now lives in urban areas. By 2050, that figure will rise to 6.5 billion people—two-thirds of all humanity, 15% with disabilities, making urbanization one of the 21st century's most transformative and challenging trends.
In many places, this trend towards rapid urbanization goes hand in hand with the creation of more disparities, inequalities, and discrimination, but urbanization can be a force for positive transformation. Urbanization processes wherein human rights are respected and promoted have the potential to transform this phenomenon from one in which people's rights are too often ignored or denied into a force that contributes positively to increasing equity and inclusion for all.
We need a paradigm shift in urban design for the 21st century.
Urbanization, at its heart, is about human rights and how people access and exercise those rights. It is also about services and how people can equitably access and meaningfully participate and benefit from public services. When we think about urbanization, we need to think beyond populations moving into urban areas and consider how everyone can have equitable access to opportunity and a satisfactory standard of living. To meet the social and economic challenges fueled by the ever-increasing speed of global urbanization, we must design and refine cities for human diversity and social inclusion.
We cannot effectively challenge the snares of urbanization unless we address the needs, concerns, and priorities of historically marginalized and underserved communities.
We need a paradigm shift in urban design for the 21st century. If we continue to design cities as though everyone is 30 years old, active, and without disability, the result will continue to be cities that are biased, non-accessible, and non- inclusive. We cannot effectively challenge the snares of urbanization —or solve any of our biggest urban challenges (housing, health, water and sanitation, education, employment, recreation, political participation) unless we address the needs, concerns, and priorities of historically marginalized and underserved communities.
Design a city that works for a 90-year-old and 9-year-old, and you will design a city that works for everyone.
Moving forward, we must commit to creating cities that are inclusive and accessible for everyone—including older persons and people with disabilities.Design a city that works for a 90-year-old and 9-year-old, and you will design a city that works for everyone. We must intentionally design to leave no one behind.
Unfortunately, accessible and inclusive cities do not build themselves. It takes a commitment to improving and people working together to make cities equitable, accessible, and inclusive for all. To help with this process, ask three simple questions continuously; by doing so, we can thread accessibility, equity, and inclusion into a given moment or a more extensive planning process.
1. Who is not included in the work we do?
2. What could contribute to this exclusion?
3. What can we do differently to ensure inclusion?
The most significant impacts come from collective efforts to understand the issues, map out strategies, and take action. Collaboration and citizen co-creation are vital. When cities listen to and work with citizens and communities (private industry, leading experts, civic tech, academics, artists, advocacy and disability groups), they can harness energy and resources necessary to build more equitable, accessible, and inclusive cities.
Urbanization can be a force for positive transformation if it respects, supports, and advances human rights.
Urbanization can be a force for positive transformation if it respects, supports, and advances human rights if we optimize the opportunities provided by urbanization, we can build a new blueprint for a more equitable, accessible, and inclusive world —where municipalities act on a central commitment to leave no person behind.