Views & Reviews
Kohima smart city must be disabled-friendly & inclusive
Kohima Municipal Council
With preparation underway to make Kohima Smart City a reality, I write this on behalf of the disability community to underline the absolute necessity to make the planned city disabled-friendly and inclusive.
Most of the early discussions on our Smart City have been about issues like better supply and use of energy, water, efficient traffic flow, smart lighting, housing, waste management, e-facilities and so on, which I certainly agree are all very important. Sadly, no mention has so far been made on making the environment and facilities inclusive and accessible for all sections of society, including those living with disabilities.With awareness and understanding on disability and disabled people still at a very poor level in our State, the conditions in our existing towns are atrocious to say the least. People living with disabilities are completely shut out from all areas of life because of inaccessibility. These include schools, offices, hospitals, commercial buildings, roads, public transport, public grounds, recreation areas and buildings, etc – the list goes on and on. No area in the state is accessible to disabled people and no one, neither the government nor the society at large, has any awareness of this practically invisible group of people and their rights as equal citizens of the state.
What this means, of course, is that people living with disabilities in our state have no life. In the current situation, they have nothing to look forward to except a life of intense exclusion and discrimination with life-long barriers which prevents their access to education, work, play and social participation.
In this day and age when other societies are galloping ahead in providing barrier free environments and services to enable all sections of society to live, learn and earn as is every citizen’s right, the existing unacceptable conditions in Nagaland cannot be allowed to continue.
The Smart City project is a great opportunity for Nagaland to take a crucial step towards inclusion and to lead the way for the rest of the country by making Kohima a model city that is enabling and ‘liveable’ for each and every citizen .
Creating an inclusive city
Disability is not just about people with physical impairments. It also extends to people with sight impairment (ranging from low vision to total blindness), hearing impairment (ranging from slight hearing loss to profound deafness) and to those with cognitive impairment (learning disability) and mental health problems.
Accessibility for disabled and older people does not only mean physical access to vehicles and systems. It includes information in forms that are useable by everyone, training of transport staff to understand the needs of disabled and older people, and design and layout of urban areas to enable people to move about safely and confidently. (Anne Frye: Thematic study prepared for Global Report on Human Settlements 2013 – http://goo.gl/hBlvJN)
Accessibility is at the heart of inclusion for people with disabilities. Barrier-free cities ensure that everyone, including the disabled and the elderly, can participate in every aspect of life in society. From the built environment and transport to public information services, accessibility is crucial for the quality of life, and social and labour market inclusion of all residents.
The plan and design for Kohima Smart City must incorporate accessibility in all fundamental aspects of city living:
• the built environment and public spaces
• transport and related infrastructure
• information and communication, including Information and Communication Technologies (ICT)
• public facilities and services
I am confident that you will not let this golden opportunity to end the exclusion of the disabled community in our society pass us by.
I look forward to more interaction so that ideas and information can be shared which will help in the planning of a Smart City that we can truly be proud of.
Disability Rights Advocate
Member, National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) and
Partner, National Disability Network