An evolving canon of literature in the social sciences, international, human and community development disciplines relies on Composite Indices such as the United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Index to communicate the status and change of complex systems. Much more than a rigorous academic exercise, the UMI has direct practical application illuminating how barriers to mobility discriminately constrain the autonomy of people with disabilities (PwDs), violating their human rights and compounding their oppression and stigmatisation. This new Index comparatively and longitudinally quantifies access for persons of all abilities to private dwellings, commercial buildings, public buildings and infrastructure for the first time across the total built environment reflecting the real life experience of denial of access. The unique methodology of the UMI empowers People with Disabilities drawn from within the local community by placing them at the centre of decision making on assessing and prioritising barrier removal. They remain actively involved in decision and are intimately involved during all phases and final outcomes.
In Victoria the concept of the UMI has generated considerable interest. Disabled Peoples Organisations (DPOs), Local Governments, Built Environment organisations and professional groups have all been extremely supportive. VDD is endeavouring to initiate pilot projects in partnership with progressive local governments and Disability Reference Groups (or equivalent) both in Australia and internationally. Due to in-house knowledge and skills VDD, in an international context, specifically want to team up with Latin American governments and disability organisations. Implementing a world-first series of pilot studies will demonstrate how innovative policy, practice and partnership can collaborate with key stakeholders to promote a new approach to promoting accessible communities resulting in increased participation of persons of all physical abilities.
Using the Universal Mobility Index will allow local governments and their authorities to:
- assess what changes to the built environment persons with disabilities want to be made
- prioritise these changes in accordance with the wishes of People with Disabilities
- assess, reassess and longitudinally track their record of access provision
- measure success, informing all stakeholders, and
- thereby improving and increasing opportunities for people with disabilities to participate and be included in all areas of community life.
The envisaged series of pilot studies will provide the platform on which to launch an elegant tool for a ‘whole of government approach’ to mobility within the built environment and, enhance prospects for people with disabilities to strengthen community membership, participation and inclusion.