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In 10 Tweets, How City Planning Has Failed Women With Disabilities

During a Twitter chat with Mumbai-based feminist collective Why Loiter on December 23, disability and gender rights activist Nidhi Goyal spoke about the many ways in which our society denies access to women as well as people with disabilities (PWD).

Goyal, who is visually impaired, drew on her own experiences of navigating through urban spaces. Crumbling or missing pavements, an utter disregard for pedestrians, and traffic signal systems that were never made disability-friendly, the inadequacies of public transport, a lack of street lighting – these and more pose severe challenges to the mobility of women and PWDs.

And the cause for this?

Once you have invisibilised an entire population, you no longer have to address their concerns. Things have been carrying on like this for so long, which is why Goyal points out that:

When infrastructure fails to be women- and PWD-friendly, safety becomes a huge concern.

The example Goyal gives is one that non-disabled people are unlikely to have even considered, but this is what makes up the everyday experience of disabled women in India. And while infrastructure may be lacking, there’s something to be said other people’s behaviour too:

Goyal spoke of the role technology has played in making public spaces more accessible. She says it’s a mixed bag, with its positives:

And negatives:

Public spaces and technology need to become accessible. This isn’t a debate. This will require non-disabled people to respect facilities created specifically for disabled people – like lifts and reserved seats in the Metros, or tactile paths in public spaces. It will require public works and transport to take a far more active role in ensuring mobility for disabled people. It will require learning material to be available in formats that are more accessible. And it will require policy and decision-making to happen with the involvement and express approval of PWDs. The passing of the Rights of People With Disabilities Bill earlier this month comes as a significant victory, with its provisions on free education for disabled children, on reproductive health rights for pregnant women with disabilities and more. It now remains to be seen how well all of this will be implemented.