Last week, I spoke at a Future Economy Network event about the importance of accessibility as part of sustainable development. There are slides on SlideShare, but the essence of my talk is outlined below.
Leave No One Behind
This is one of the core principles of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. If something does not work for all people, it is prone to risk and not sustainable.
If we exclude people in our work, then we create products and services that are less sustainable. And as we look to the future, our idea of what it means to be inclusive and sustainable is likely to shift. We have a growing, ageing population. In fact, it’s estimated that by 2060 there will be twice as many older people than younger people. This relates to the ‘people’ pillar of the triple bottom line and the definition of sustainability:
“Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.”
Around 1 in 5 people have a disability – more than a billion people in the world. Looking after our planet is a team sport. We need to include disabled people. We need their help.
Accessibility is a measure of social sustainability. In fact, disability is explicitly mentioned 11 times in Agenda 2030, and relates directly to 5 of the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs):
- Goal 4, Quality education: Access to knowledge and awareness.
- Goal 8, Decent work and economic growth: Access to employment.
- Goal 10, Reduced inequalities: Social, economic and political inclusion for disabled people.
- Goal 11, Sustainable cities and communities: Accessible human settlements.
- Goal 17, Partnerships for the goals: Data and monitoring of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
And accessibility impacts on yet more of the goals, for example, “Access to health services”.
Inclusion is encompassed by yet more parts of the goals and their targets and topics:
- Gender equality
- Financial inclusion
Through a COVID lens…
The COVID-19 pandemic has tested the resilience of many businesses, but also every one of us as individuals. We have a greater understanding of what it is to feel isolated or excluded. But for many disabled people, the pandemic has amplified the effects of social inequality around the world.
Disability inclusion isn’t a tick-box exercise. It’s vital to achieving the SDGs.