Making Caracas disability-friendly

Marcela Scarpellini, Caracas Community Manager
Caracas, 22 March, 2016

Understanding cities as cribs for diversity, merging all sorts of people, living in distinct situations, is one of the traits that makes city life interesting. The conditions, which enable the existence and participation of diversity may face challenges when having to fit and satisfy the needs of all citizens.

In Caracas, about six percent of the population lives with some kind of disability, according to the 2011 National Census. Of this six percent, 24,685 people live with musculoskeletal disability, for which necessary measures are required to include this population in society while, at the same time ensuring their legal rights are met. Laws in the matter exist, but none of their mandatory adaptations/modifications have taken place.

Pedro Marrero, founder of Caracas Accessible, argues that our understanding of disability is superficial, when arguing that: “Accessibility is not an end in itself, but rather a means in order to change the current prevailing paradigm around people with disabilities.” He claims that discrimination towards people with disability takes place due to lack of visibility and consequent indifference. This is why the concept of inclusion is important: “Creating accessibility is empowering those who would otherwise be isolated in order to give them an opportunity to be an active part the possibilities offered by society.” Caracas Accessible, therefore, is focused on raising awareness on the issue at a nuclear level.

Considering the deplorable situation of Caracas’ streets and sidewalks, Caracas Accessible came up with the idea of painting small potato sacks and filling them with cement and placed them in the space between the street and the sidewalk – spots where ramps should be placed. The exercise showed that remedies could be that simple, fast and low-cost, while making a very big difference in the lives of people with disabilities.

This organization intends to raise awareness as a first step in order for responses to be inclusive enough and conceived with a broad enough thought spectrum. Caracas Accessible is open to working with everyone in any sector that is willing to pitch in and get involved. They currently have undertaken projects with the Municipality of El Hatillo, in which they are helping design and plan punctual interventions in public spaces that would normally facilitate the displacement of people with disabilities. With the help of that same municipality, they have brought together neighbors in order to discuss laws on the matter, to make the issue public, as well as to listen to other needs people may have in order to find ways of integrating them into the plan. There are several regulations promoting people with some kind of disability to work, but all the practical, logistical needs in order to make them happen are non-existent and costly. Which means that currently only big regional, national budgets could afford to make a significant impact.

So as long as laws are enacted, but no voluntary action is taken to accompany those laws, issues like these will just be about discourse. And this is why the work of Caracas Accessible is needed, since it is trying to raise awareness, not as end in itself, but as a means that will hopefully motivate people to create an adaptive urban, social and conceptual infrastructure needed for inclusion to be a fact rather than hope and fiction.

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