Reaching a more inclusive future for Bangladesh through navigating "urban accessibility"

Sthapattya O Nirman
Environment & Planning
January 28, 2024
112
Reaching a more inclusive future for Bangladesh through navigating "urban accessibility"

To make Bangladesh a disability-inclusive modern nation by 2041, city spaces must be designed in such a way that accessibility is not just a goal but a real reality for all citizens.

As Bangladesh moves into an era of long-term urban development, the need for universal accessibility has taken center stage in the national debate. Bangladesh has made appreciable progress in mainstreaming accessibility measures driven by long-term development goals (SDGs) 6 and 11. Especially those considered the best by the Ministry of Social Welfare and Department of Urban Development (UDD), Ministry of Housing and Public Works.

The Rights and Protection of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2013 and integration of accessibility measures into urban planning is a significant achievement, which promises to foster an inclusive civic environment.

Current status of urban policies on universal accessibility:

Bangladesh's urban policy has seen appreciable progress in increasing universal accessibility. The Department of Urban Development (UDD) is playing an important role in ensuring safe drinking water, sanitation and sustainable urbanization. Inclusion of accessibility measures for persons with disabilities in urban planning is a particular achievement. Principles related to universal access are embedded in the broader framework of the SDGs, which ensure the creation of an inclusive civic environment.

Legal frameworks, government laws, regulations and policies related to universal accessibility in Bangladesh have laid the foundation for progress. The emphasis on sustainable urbanization involves issues of universal accessibility, aiming to shape cities that are both economically vibrant and socially inclusive.

Challenges towards universal accessibility:

Despite these initiatives, barriers remain, particularly in education, health care, gender inclusion, public space and employment. Women, children, transgender persons and men with disabilities face specific barriers, requiring a holistic approach to address challenges. Access to education and health care is another concern, in which appropriate action is needed.

Issues in policy frameworks, urban planning, transport, building design and social protection services impede the need for a fully inclusive urban environment. Although initiatives have been taken in some cases to effectively address these issues, a more detailed and integrated approach is needed.

National-level challenges and recommendations:

Policy revisions: The national-level plans need a critical review to incorporate explicit provisions for universal accessibility. This involves revising existing policies to ensure they are not just comprehensive but explicitly address the needs of people with disabilities.

Inter-Ministerial collaboration: There is a need for enhanced collaboration among ministries, and establishing a committee overseeing universal accessibility implementation can facilitate a more coordinated effort. This collaboration should cut across various sectors such as urban development, education, healthcare, and social services.

District-level challenges and recommendations:

Incorporate in agenda: District-level coordination meetings should actively incorporate universal accessibility considerations into their agendas. The District Commissioner (DC) plays a crucial role in driving local policies, and their leadership in this regard can significantly impact the inclusivity of urban spaces.

Capacity enhancement: Training programmes for local authorities can enhance their ability to plan and execute inclusive policies. This includes equipping them with the knowledge and tools necessary to implement universal accessibility measures effectively.

Local adaptation: Customising national policies to address specific local needs within districts is crucial. What works at the national level might need tailoring to suit the unique challenges faced by individual districts.

Upazila-level challenges and recommendations:

Community engagement: Active engagement of local communities in planning and decision-making processes at the Upazila level is essential. This ensures that the needs and perspectives of the local population are considered in the formulation of accessibility policies.

Resource allocation: Adequate resource allocation at the Upazila level for accessibility measures is vital. This includes budgetary considerations for infrastructure development and programmes that promote universal accessibility.

Municipality-level challenges and recommendations:

Accessible infrastructure: The development and maintenance of universally accessible urban infrastructure should be a priority at the municipality level. This involves not only constructing accessible spaces but also ensuring their ongoing maintenance and usability.

Inclusive programmes: Municipalities should introduce specific programmes to foster inclusive environments. This could include awareness campaigns, skill-building programmes and initiatives that promote inclusivity in public spaces.

Union-level challenges and recommendations:

Community-based approach: Implementing community-driven initiatives at the union level is essential. This involves empowering local communities to take ownership of accessibility initiatives and tailoring them to meet the specific needs of the Union.

Awareness programmes: Conducting targeted awareness programmes within Union communities can significantly contribute to changing attitudes and fostering a culture of inclusivity.

 

In conclusion, while Bangladesh has made commendable progress in integrating universal accessibility into its urban policies, there remain challenges that demand focused attention. 

Policy reform and inter-ministerial collaboration at the national level can create space for inclusive citizen access. District, upazila, municipality and union levels each have different challenges, the appropriate solution of which is to emphasize a comprehensive and integrated approach. The way forward not only addresses immediate obstacles but encourages cultural change. Awareness programmes, community participation and capacity building are integral components of this journey.

These recommendations serve as a map for making cities accessible, where accessibility is not just a goal but a reality for all citizens, leaving no one behind in the nation's development trajectory.

Original Writeup by :

Dr Khurshid Zabin Hossain Taufique is the former Director, Urban Development Directorate (UDD), Ministry of Housing and Public Works (MoHPW), Government of the People"s Republic of Bangladesh 

Dr Priyanka Kochhar, currently the chief executive officer of The Habitat Emprise, New Delhi, has nearly 20 years of experience as a researcher and is committed to advancing sustainability in the built environment through research, education, industry engagement and advocacy.

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Image: Dr Khurshid Zabin Hossain Taufique & Dr Priyanka Kochhar

Contributor : Architect Faiza Fairooz 
Nirnoy upodestha ltd, Panthapath

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