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Urban Development

Accessibility in Smart Cities and Sustainable Urban Development 

By 2050, about 6.25 billion people (70% of world population), 15% of them with disabilities, are predicted to be living in cities. These rapid urban changes provides both opportunities and challenges for a truly inclusive, accessible and equal society for all, where no one is left behind. WBU is fully committed to work towards a world that is increasingly accessible for blind and partially sighted persons. This is one of our Strategic Priorities (no 3)​

Since the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), where accessibility is deeply enshrined, considerable progress has been made worldwide. However, the World Blind Union recognizes that great challenges persist to enable access to infrastructure, facilities, public spaces, and basic services for all. 

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have provided a new global framework to address the challenges faced by persons with disabilities and that without inclusion for global change the goals will not be realized. The New Urban Agenda, which correlates with SDG 11 on sustainable, inclusive, safe and resilient cities further emphasize the need for participatory urban development. 

A modern, inclusive, and accessible city is a smart city. For WBU, a smart city is an inclusive city embracing the diversity of its inhabitants as drivers of development and human progress. A smart city is universally accessible urban area where blind and partially sighted persons enjoy equal access to barrier-free digital and physical spaces and services. Smart technologies accessible to blind and partially sighted persons are adopted to enhance independent orientation and mobility of persons along bridging the digital divide in access to information and communication. 
The WBU program 2019-2020
From January 2019 we have initiated the Accessibility in Smart Cities initiative, a program intended for WBU to establish a more comprehensive understanding of accessibility and inclusion in sustainable urban development and Smart Cities. 

The program aims to establish WBU as one of the leading global disabled people’s organizations in the discourse of sustainable urban development and smart cities. To accomplish this WBU will strengthen global advocacy, strengthening WBU and our members, collaborate with global actors and networks, foster sharing of information on accessibility practices, and to work more closely with the private sector to raise the voices of blind and partially sighted persons in the design of cities and smart technologies. 

WBU, as the first global DPO, is a proud signatory to the Global Compact on Accessible and Inclusive cities and is today part of the Disability Inclusion and Accessibility in Urban Development Network behind the Cities 4 All campaign​

The WBU program is coordinated by Hannes Juhlin Lagrelius, based in Nairobi at the offices of our regional member African Union of the Blind. This position is enabled by the support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency​ (Sida).