FOCUS ON – Safe & inclusive mobility: fostering dialogue between local CSOs, DPOs, national and local authorities to remove barriers to the mobility of persons with disabilities

Posted by: on Jul 12, 2018 | No Comments

HI new study draws evidence on the barriers – and the solutions to overcome them – that persons with disabilities, and more broadly marginalised people, face in their mobility in cities in developing countries.

The study has been built on concrete experiences in several countries, as well as dialogue between persons with disabilities, their representative organisations and other stakeholders, including local and national authorities.

“Making Cities Inclusive: Safe Mobility for Persons with Disabilities in Developing Countries” brings together concepts that are often studied separately: accessibility and safety.  We argue that improved safe and accessible mobility leads to better quality of life for all in inclusive and resilient cities. Personal mobility and accessibility are obligations on States that ratified the UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities. When endorsing the SDGs, all States also committed to provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport system for everyone, and to improve road safety (SDG 11). There is no coincidence in the fact that HI decided to publish this study on safe and inclusive mobility on the year when this SDG11 is globally reviewed at the High Level Political Forum on sustainable development. With our analyses and recommendations, we aim to constructively feed in the political debate and assist policy-makers in making informed and just choices.

The study was implemented with the support of experts in urban development and disability rights from Urban Emerge (Andreas Beavor) and World Enabled (Federico Batista Poitier and Dr. Victor Pineda). The editorial committee associated experts from HI on several topics (road safety, accessibility, DRM, gender, advocacy), as well as experts from other organisations: Jean-François Gaillet and Julie Delzenne, from the Institut VIAS (the Belgian road safety agency), and Abner Manlapaz from Life Haven Center for Independent Living (a Disabled Persons Organisation in the Philippines). At country level, the research team was supported by local focal points who gathered useful data and analyses, and organized dialogues with relevant local stakeholders.

Lessons learnt from persons with disabilities, local and international partners

Building on experience from the field, the study provides highlights from 9 countries – Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Nepal, Kenya, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo and Haiti. In the different countries, we identified and explored a range of different projects that have been implemented by HI, by CBM (in Nepal and Haiti) and Light for the World (in Cambodia), relating to road safety, inclusive education, inclusive employment and inclusive disaster management.

Depending on the local context and the availability of resources, the analysis provided in the study relies either on review of project documents, interviews of key informants involved in the different projects identified and/or focus group discussions with persons with disabilities and their representatives.

Participants to focus group Safe Mobility Burkina

Participants to the focus group on Safe Mobility in Burkina Faso.

Overall, documents from 11 projects were reviewed, 15 key informant interviews conducted and 7 focus group discussions organised in 4 different countries (Laos, Burkina Faso, DRC, Kenya). The focus groups discussions gathered representatives of Disabled Persons’ Organisations, road traffic victims organisations, local and national authorities, to discuss the needs of, and barriers faced by, persons with disabilities when using the road. The interview and focus group participants were selected based on their representation of a cross-section of the population, taking into consideration gender, age and disabilities in their diversity.

Focus on Laos

In Laos, HI relied on its extensive experience on road safety, stemming from a road safety program carried over the period 2008 – 2016. Amongst other outcomes, the program produced a useful detailed guide on how to improve road safety and accessible public transport in cities.

Our research was an opportunity to link up with various government departments and assess how road safety activities had integrated considerations of safe and inclusive mobility.  Interviewed carried out with the Ministry of Education and Sport, the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, the Ministry of Public Works and Transport highlighted the need for a coordinated approach. The creation of the National Road Safety Committee (NRSC), chaired by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, has already provided a more structured and collaborative approach to implementing road safety measures, which has resulted in more integrated and robust infrastructure and better promotion of road safety awareness and interventions.

The focus group discussion gathered representatives from different Disabled Persons’ Organisations, among which the Laos Disabled Peoples Association (LDPA), the Association for the Blind, the Association for Autism, the Association for the Deaf, the Lao Disabled Women’s Association, as well as the Lao Red Cross. They exchanged on several ongoing or needed initiatives to help with universal mobility in Vientiane, for example:

– Capacity building to feed in consultation processes relating to urban infrastructure development,
– Training of tuk-tuk drivers on accessibility,
– Creation of the Road Crashes Prevention Team bringing together a group of road crash victims to raise awareness.

Focus on Kenya

In Kenya, two focus group discussions gathered representatives of the Kibera Disability Group, and the Kayole Disabled (a non-formal group). It was indeed an opportunity to collect very concrete experience of mobility in Nairobi for persons with disabilities. Their testimonies clearly stressed that safe and inclusive mobility is a prerequisite for persons with disabilities to feel safe on the roads, secure their livelihoods and access basic social services.

“We have to share the road with fast moving cars and motorbikes, nobody cares that we can’t move at the same speed as them. We often acquire secondary injuries that worsen our disabilities from accidents on the road”

“For my first job, my mother had to carry me on her back for a distance of around 4 KM because we did not have the money to pay for a bus or motorbike. So I was always late. Once I got there, we had to go up 4 fleets of stairs to get to the shop where I knitted sweaters. Once I got to work, I avoided eating and drinking as much as possible because the toilet was inaccessible. Because of these challenges, I was fired after a week.”

It was interestingly observed that perceptual barriers must also be dealt with to improve safe and inclusive mobility. These include:

  • Fear of crowds,
  • Fear of getting lost,
  • Fear of physical attack and abuse,
  • Fear of embarrassments stemming from the impatience of other passengers.

Mobility in the city was also identified as a challenge for the elderly and children. It was repeated several times that limiting employment, social, educational, and recreational opportunities restricts the extent to which persons with disabilities are able to be productive members of the society.


To know more, read the briefs ! In addition to a general policy brief, “Making Cities Inclusive: Safe Mobility for Persons with Disabilities in Developing Countries” comprises four thematic briefs to highlight the links between safe mobility and:

road safety,
access to education,
access to employment,
– and Disaster Risk Management.