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Transport, Poverty and Disability in Developing Countries

Inclusive transport is a critical element in a comprehensive strategy of mainstreaming people
with disabilities in developing countries. Transport systems that exclude people with
disabilities virtually guarantee that people with disabilities will be poor, since such systems
may well preclude education, prevent participation in the labor market, and restrict access to
health and other social services. Apart from creating “income poverty” for people with
disabilities, exclusive transport systems also deprive people with disabilities of social, cultural
and political opportunities.
When analyzing the environment with regard to transport and disability, two main perspectives
need to be considered. These perspectives are access to and accessibility of the built
environment. Access to the built environment includes the possibility of all people to reach all
places within the built environment. Accessibility of the built environment includes the
possibility of all people to maneuver and make use of the built environment in an unassisted
The physical environment is a multidimensional continuity of space. All users of this space,
including people with disabilities, have the right to use it and should be given the possibility to
move around in this environment without restrictions. This possibility of moving around can be
restricted not only by physical barriers but also by cultural, social and economic barriers.
It has been estimated that there are about 400 million people with disabilities in developing
countries. According to the estimate of ECMT, a share of 10-14 % of the population of most
countries in the world have some form of functional limitations which prevent them from using
easily or safely all or some forms of transport.
Good guidelines for policy and planning decisions are essential for creating and maintaining
accessible environments for all people including different disability groups. The consideration
of accessibility to all people with disabilities has not been given significant priority in
development and construction plans in developing countries to date. However, some
developing countries are experiencing rapid economic growth which leads to industrialization
and urbanization and thus to accelerating construction. Other developing countries have
suffered the destruction of armed conflict or natural disasters, and hence enter a period of
rapid construction. Consequently, special attempts should be made to incorporate the access
needs of people with disabilities in this construction work. A number of countries have already
recognized this demand and started to