Project Kaabil: Disability is a Problem of Design

According to The Right To Education in Pakistan, 5.035 million people with disabilities are deprived of access to their cities. The Government of Pakistan ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2011. However, none of these provisions are implemented or enforced.

The term “Kaabil” translates to “able” or “capable” in English, putting forward the ideas of empowerment and ability. Project Kaabil aims to create awareness about disability as a problem of design, and not personhood or personal capability. The structure of Karachi as a city in its current design makes it impossible for a person on a wheelchair to feel included or welcome in their own city. This project aims to put forward the experience of wheelchair users who are trying to navigate movement in the city of Karachi.

Design is the translation of value. We question whether a city can value movement that is different from walking and driving. The urban infrastructure of a city must accommodate the needs of all citizens and residents who seek shelter there. Project Kaabil is about demanding space and access, and changing the narrative about persons with different-abilities. We believe that accessible public and private spaces will change the urban and moral fabric of our society for the better.

Project Kaabil received financial support through the U.S. Department of State in the form of a small grant. It was initiated with the production of a video that aimed to create awareness about the difficulties faced by a wheelchair bound person in the city of Karachi, Pakistan. The troubles depicted were in terms of the infrastructure, planning, and design of public spaces within the city.

Disability is not a medical problem. It is a design problem.

In order to deliver the message of the above mentioned statement, a workshop was organized and delivered to the students of a local neighborhood school called Institute For Learning & Development (ILAD). Following the workshop, the students were given the opportunity to interact with people working for a similar cause. A field trip was arranged by Project Kaabil to the Pakistan Disabled Foundation, which is an NGO working for the rights of differently-abled people in Pakistan. The students were warmly received by Chairperson Prof. Shahid Ahmed Memon and his colleagues for a thoughtful and informative discussion on disability rights in Pakistan. They were also able to witness and experience technical equipment that makes it possible for people with hearing and visual impairments to use computers and other machinery.

As of now, Project Kaabil has a Facebook page that is up and running. The vision behind the project is to bring about a change in mindset, such that it is understood that differently-abled people do not need to adjust to public spaces, but that the spaces must be designed to accommodate differently-abled people.

This blog was written by Hasan Naqvi, Senior at HU’s School of Science & Engineering, majoring in Electrical Engineering, Class of 2018.

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