(Inter)national knowledge sharing for accessible public spaces for everyone
Municipalities are working hard on solutions with limited financial resources, and (inter)national knowledge sharing is a great way to learn from each other. For this purpose, VNG International wrote a lobby piece about a case of the Rotterdam – The Hague Metropolitan Area on accessibility for the special edition of UN Habitat’s scientific magazine »The Journal of Public Space», which was published at the World Urban Forum in Katowice, Poland.
Although the Netherlands scores relatively well on social targets, representation of people with a physical or sensory impairment in decision-making remains the exception to the rule. This minority represents no less than 15% of the population, so effort to make change is needed. Social objectives as included in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the UN Handicap Convention are indeed under pressure.
The Netherlands and the local Inclusion agenda
At an international level, the Netherlands was relatively late in ratifying the UN Handicap Convention. In 2016, ten years after the convention the ratification process was finalised. While this was a slow start, an important clause was added to adoption of the convention. Dutch local authorities are obliged to draw up a so-called Local Inclusion Agenda. The Local Inclusion Agenda (LIA) is an action plan in which the involvement of people with lived experience is central, directly implementing the well-known catchphrase ‘’nothing about us without us’’.
This concept is quite unique on an international level and is being developed in different ways in Dutch municipalities. A positive development, however challenging with limited financial resources available. Various municipalities are joining forces to share capacity in manpower and other resources to achieve acceleration, including the municipalities of The Hague, Kapelle aan den IJssel, Rotterdam and Zoetermeer within Metropole region Rotterdam – The Hague. Their case has now been exhibited internationally to create awareness about the subject by sharing their obstacles and successes.
On the Road Together: Bridging public space and accessibility for people with disabilities in the Rotterdam-The Hague Metropolitan Area
The article critically examines the accessibility of the Dutch metropolitan area of Rotterdam and The Hague. It underlines the barriers and opportunities for people with disabilities to participate in public space on an equal footing. It analyses the case of Samen op Pad, an initiative that uses geographic information systems (GIS) to improve the independent navigation of people with disabilities through urban public space. The article evaluates the lack of accessibility in the current urban space design and calls for a localized approach to inclusive governance and services for and with people with disabilities.
In addition, it investigates the added value of the case study of integrated and interdisciplinary cooperation between local authorities, GIS specialists and people with experience to improve the accessibility of the urban area through smart use of data. Finally, the article calls for international knowledge sharing to raise awareness to join forces to normalize a public space that is user-friendly and accessible to all.