North Texas Daily

City planning could use the voice of people with disabilities

City planning could use the voice of people with disabilities

City planning could use the voice of people with disabilities
February 10
14:00 2022

There is no arguing that urban planning and policy have a history of contributing to the exclusivity of communities, and not providing for the wide range of those in need — from segregation in housing and transportation policies to the disproportionate prioritization of funding. Over the past few decades, conversations of inclusivity have become more prevalent to ignite change. Centering the voices and needs of people with disabilities (mental, physical and developmental) within housing, transportation and infrastructure are of growing importance.  

In Denton, there is an estimated number of 13,081 individuals with disabilities, which accounts for 10 percent of the population. In 2020, the city initiated a community survey to gather information from citizens on priorities for housing and community development needs. The outreach received 170 surveys, with just 9.82 percent being people with disabilities (PWD). These numbers alone demonstrate an obvious barrier when it comes to the outreach and inclusivity of people with disabilities in plans and policies.  

Barriers to creating inclusive engagement in any community quickly translate to a great disruption in the lives of this important population. An additional assessment done by the city found that the most pressing issues for PWD involved high home prices, low proximity to better job opportunities, lack of affordable transit options and overall lack of investment.   

The city of Denton is currently experiencing the issue of a lack of safe and stable housing. The pricing of homes is rising rapidly, causing affordable housing to become less and less accessible for marginalized groups such as those with disabilities. This lack of access to affordable housing also creates more barriers as they may be within lower proximity to jobs with decent wages and lack affordable options for transit.  

Individuals with disabilities also emphasize the need to address infrastructure issues such as better housing maintenance, sidewalk improvements, accessibility improvements, more accessible parking spots, greater assistance for disabled veterans and insurance of adequate alternative routes during construction, according to a Denton community needs assessment.

An Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities service coordinator at Denton County MHMR Center described the funding and resources with disabilities to be very limited, and the awareness of the resources they provide being scarce among those with disabilities or their family members.  

The work that can be done by nonprofits to successfully connect PWD with the world and opportunities is very limited due to lack of investment. It is also impossible for just a few nonprofits to solve the problems people with disabilities face, making collaborative approaches an important part of the solution.  

These issues extend beyond Denton and exist among communities everywhere. Dallas, one of the largest cities in Texas with an estimated 1.3 million people, recently approved the establishment of the Commission of Disabilities in December 2021, being the first of its kind in the city. This demonstrates both the progress made toward addressing the issues faced by those with disabilities and the great progress yet to be made.  

Not only are they already struggling with a range of health difficulties, but their conditions are also exacerbated through poor urban development and infrastructure. It is also important to recognize how these difficulties may intersect and worsen with race, class, gender and conditions such as the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Urban planners have a moral and ethical responsibility to ensure all voices are part of the local planning process. To learn this early in urban planning undergraduate education, UNT urban planning students gain practical experience in courses where they learn different techniques such as surveys to gain input from residents.

Supporting and empowering the voices of those with disabilities and centering them in urban policy and planning can help to uplift them from unlivable conditions. Making this education accessible for people with disabilities can also encourage their leadership on inclusive policies and planning. Spreading awareness and pushing for change is crucial in solving the difficulties that people with disabilities face daily in the world around us.  

Resources:

Denton ADA Transition Plan Update – Tool for any individual to map accessibility issues.  

Denton County MHMR Center – Mental health and community support 

SPAN, Inc – Transportation needs 

The North Central Texas Aging and Disability Resource Center (NCTADRC) – Long-term service and support programs  

United Way of Denton County – Housing advocacy 

Featured Illustration by Miranda Thomas

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Vanessa Delgado

Vanessa Delgado

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