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"Our Cities are not Designed for the Disabled" According to CityLab

"Our Cities are not Designed for the Disabled" According to CityLab

Although disability laws have been put in place decades ago, architects are still struggling with disability requirements. A recent article by CityLab explored how the rise of speed and efficiency-driven cities have overlooked accessibility, neglecting the needs of people who are physically unable to live or keep up with these dense neighborhoods. And while the "15-Minute City", one that allows people to walk or bike to most essential services within 15 minutes of their home, may seem as the future of built environments, it does not cater to disabled individuals or their movements.

© Aitor OrtizCourtesy of Ciclo Vivo© Shutterstock© Arup+ 4

The article explores how urban planners are designing their cities according to time, and not function or needs. But what they seem to leave behind is that time is different for each individual, and should not be taken as a universal reference; "if you’re a commuter who drives to work, spending an extra five or 10 minutes stuck in traffic is cause for transportation departments to spend billions on road widening. But if you rely on paratransit, your pickup window can slide one or more hours on either end, and that’s par for the course". 

Courtesy of Ciclo Vivo
Courtesy of Ciclo Vivo

CityLab's Anna Zivarts, who is also a director at the Disability Mobility Initiative, interviewed city residents who are unable to drive. The interviewees shared how often they have to make difficult decisions between paying more to live closer to transit and services, and living in places they could more easily afford, but requires them to rely on family and friends or charity rides for transportation. And since not all disable people are able to afford living in well-equipped and facilitated cities, they have to sacrifice their comfort for financial stability.


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In Zivarts' research, two priorities emerged: First, access to fixed-route transit should be a priority for those with a mobility disability, not just in dense and expensive cities, but in all cities, neighborhoods, and suburbs all over the world. And second, building safe and accessible pedestrian infrastructure that allows safe connections to transit. The lack of sidewalk ramps or accessible pedestrian signals makes it almost impossible for disabled individuals to reach their transit at the same time or efficiency as an Able-bodied citizen. 

© Aitor Ortiz
© Aitor Ortiz

Urban mobility is an extensively debated topic. All over the world, cities are developing inclusive and accessible design standards to better accommodate the disabled in public spaces. However, most countries have failed to make accessibility a necessity, considering it as a peripheral consideration of the project instead. In ArchDaily's Accessibility-themed Editor's Talk, editors from ArchDaily Brazil shared their thoughts on what they understand as accessibility and whether it's possible to create a neutral architecture.

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Cite: Dima Stouhi. ""Our Cities are not Designed for the Disabled" According to CityLab" 02 Aug 2021. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/966066/our-cities-are-not-designed-for-the-disabled> ISSN 0719-8884

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