Be your brother’s keeper
By the year 2050, the world’s urban population is expected to reach 6.4 billion, which will lead to huge diversity in the formation of a city’s residents. With this uncontrollable urban growth, 54 percent by the year 2014, the United Nations has been calling to have cities that support human rights and are characterized by “inclusivity,” cities that are safe and comfortable for their citizens, cities that offer basic services, such as the right to housing, the right to access safe drinking water and the right to education.Within this respect, the New Urban Agenda calls for no discrimination between the citizens of cities. The agenda, which repeated the word “inclusive” 36 times, asks the policymakers of each city to take into consideration the different needs of citizens. The needs of youth are different than the needs of children. The needs of people with disabilities are different than the needs of marginalized people.
Consequently, taking into consideration the rights of disabled people, which were stated in the convention of the United Nations, and the agenda’s concentration on planning to reach inclusive cities, UNESCO, in accordance with the World Book and Copyright Day, which is annually celebrated on April 23, held a conference under the title “Accessibility: What are the challenges in publishing?”
On this occasion, Irina Bokova, the director-general of UNESCO, stressed the importance of having cities that treat vulnerable people the right way. She gave an example about how the humanity of a city can be measured. She said, “When we apply the measure to the availability of books to those with visual impairments and those with learning or physical disabilities [of different causes], we are confronted with what can only be described as a ‘book famine.’”
Moreover, a capital is nominated annually in celebration of World Book and Copyright Day as UNESCO’s World Book Capital. Last September, Athens was chosen for the year 2018 based on its program of activities. The capital’s main objective is to give all its residents, in addition to the city’s refugees, access to books.
Responding to the United Nation’s holistic approach in achieving inclusive cities, a national-centered initiative should be developed by each country’s administration. Policymakers in each city play a crucial role in translating what is written on paper into reality.
Within this approach, making books accessible to people with visual impairments plays a crucial role in achieving inclusive cities. This was stated clearly by Bokova’s words: “World Book and Copyright Day is an opportunity to highlight the power of books to promote our vision of knowledge societies that are inclusive, pluralistic, equitable, open and participatory for all citizens.”
Accordingly, education ministries should work on providing each city in their countries with books that are compatible to the needs of visually impaired people. Local municipalities should equip their libraries with books and materials that are user friendly to people with visual disabilities. Schools and universities should be ready to welcome visually impaired students on their campuses and adapt their material based on that. Today, we are still taking the first steps in reaching inclusive cities. The path is too long, especially for developing countries, but every stone counts in building our societies.