- Smart Cities for All — a collaboration between the advocacy groups G3ict and World Enabled — is launching Inclusive Innovation for Smarter Cities, a new project to promote smart city design and technology to reach people with disabilities as well as older urban residents.
- The project — in New York City and Chicago — will include roundtable discussions with entrepreneurs and innovation experts to gather information on how cities can foster greater inclusion as they look ahead to smart cities. According to the announcement, organizers hope to “generate new knowledge and tools” on creating “more inclusive apps and technology solutions.”
- “The barriers that people with disabilities face are not a result of their disability, but rather with the inaccessibility of their environment,” Victor Calise, Commissioner of the NYC Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, said in a statement. “A truly smart city is an accessible city that enables all of its citizens to live happy, healthy and productive lives.”
A 2016 survey by Smart Cities for All found 60% of the 250 experts interviewed felt smart cities were failing people with disabilities because current technology is not designed to be accessible and inclusive. In a March interview with Smart Cities Dive, James Thurston, vice president for global strategy and development at G3ict, said “very few [cities] are thinking about all of their citizens, including specifically, citizens with disabilities.”
"Cities are transforming the way they do services and businesses but they’re not thinking about the accessibility,” he added. “These enormous investments in technology that cities are making are actually making the digital divide for people with disabilities bigger, not smaller."
Leaders and tech companies have talked up the potential for new technology to help people with disabilities, especially in transportation. Autonomous vehicles (AVs), for example, are loaded with potential to get non-driving populations around, and autonomous shuttles can help move people to and from accessible transit stations.
Tools such as artificial intelligence (AI), mobile apps and augmented reality can also help more people navigate cities. The Inclusive Innovation for Smarter Cities seeks to work on those benefits faster and earlier — by including more voices in the conversations as cities and companies are working on new technology, these systems can be designed with inclusivity in mind from the start, rather than simply as a side benefit later on.