Embedding Inclusive Design in Urban Development: GDI Hub’s Inclusive Design team at the World Urban Forum (WUF11)

Iain McKinnon, Mikaela Patrick, Annamae Muldowney
June 30, 2022

In June 2022, Global Disability Innovation (GDI) Hub’s Inclusive Design team attended the 11th session of the World Urban Forum (WUF11) in Katowice, Poland. The event provided an important opportunity to shape conversation around disability inclusion across 8 prominent sessions, while also enabling GDI Hub’s Inclusive Design team to meet up with key partners and collaborators from our AT2030 research work and our friends and colleagues from the Cities for All network.

The 3 members of the Inclusive Design Team stand in front of the Expo Stand

The GDI Hub Expo stand, sponsored by UN-Habitat, attracted engagement from a wide range of delegates and city government representatives who were driven to create positive changes to disability inclusion in their own cities. The team offered insights and expertise from their global programmes through showcasing:

  • Newly published ‘Inclusive Design Strategy’ that sets out our approach to implementing inclusive design to deliver even more inclusive cities
  • AT2030 research on Inclusive Infrastructure in 6 cities in developing countries around the world

The event:

After a successful week, GDI Hub’s Inclusive Design team were able to reflect on how our impact was in tune with an event demonstrably aware of the need for genuine inclusion – as specifically summarised in the closing ceremony.

On our initial arrival we saw tactile event site maps, information provided in Braille, tactile paving around and inside the venue, sessions with live International Sign Language interpretation alongside language translation. It’s often said that disability inclusion starts by allowing persons with disabilities a seat at the table, and in Katowice, the organisers, UN Habitat and the Government of Poland, had clearly made efforts to ensure this was the case.

A large screen at the conference showing speaker Mikaela Patrick and International Sign Language interpreter

GDI Hub’s Inclusive Design team spoke at 8 key sessions, which were live-streamed online with recordings available to watch again:

Side events:

  • Inclusive Indian cities
  • Inclusive public transport systems
  • Inclusive disaster risk reduction and humanitarian responses
A group of speakers sat behind a desk after a panel discussion

Having collaborated remotely for two years, the team were able to meet AT2030 delivery partners from Kenya, India and Indonesia in person for the first time – and meet contacts and connections, old and new, at the wider forum events and sessions.

Promoting the benefits of inclusive cities, the team pro-actively sought interest for our 6th AT2030 case study city – so watch this space.

A group of people stand together at the conference including Mikaela and Iain from the GDI Hub team and partners
GDI Hub team Iain McKinnon and Mikaela Patrick take part in a session with our AT2030 partners on the Varanasi case study, India's National Institute for Urban Affairs

The Commitments:

The need to act now was a message that was repeated throughout the conference as 2030 looms on the horizon. With this in mind, GDI Hub made three key commitments at WUF11 that will be included in the list of Katowice Declared Actions.

These are:

  1. GDI Hub will lead inclusive design thinking of cities by influencing and working with partners and produce an evidence-based global action report on how to deliver inclusive design in cities, co-produced with persons with disabilities and local partners – in support of the SDGs and NUA
  2. Research disability-inclusive climate resilient cities to produce case studies of good practice, working with partners including the Asian Development Bank
  3. Continue to work on urban issues with persons with disabilities living in informal settlements, helping to enable their participation and inclusive citizenship – including through Assistive Technology

We look forward to building on this momentum, following up on our commitments and demonstrating progress against the SDGs at WUF12 in Cairo, Egypt in January 2024.

As always, creating systemic change cannot be done alone or in isolation and we are grateful for the support of all our partners and collaborators at WUF including:

More on the topic:

This is a follow up from the previous News article: ‘GDI Hub at World Urban Forum: Inclusive and Resilient Cities for Persons with Disabilities.