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Themes: Inclusive Design, Climate & Crisis Resilience

GDI Hub is upping the heat on COP26 climate talks to ensure a disability-inclusive future

GDI Hub Press Release

For immediate release

The Global Disability Innovation Hub (GDI Hub), hosted at UCL, is aiming to change the global conversation on climate resilience to ensure the voices of disabled people are heard.

During a side event at COP26 on the 11th November, GDI Hub are partnering with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to challenge sector stakeholders to create a future that is both sustainable and inclusive for the 1.2 billion disabled people worldwide – a number set to rise dramatically over coming decades as populations age and stigma reduces. GDI Hub will go armed with newly discovered evidence from the £20 million UK Aid funded programme, AT2030, which highlights the urgency to consider disability inclusion as part of ongoing climate negotiations and resulting actions.

We need to urgently consider how climate and crisis resilience can be disability-inclusive

Iain McKinnon, Co-founder GDI Hub

GDI Hub, Asian Development Bank, the Mayor of Banjarmasin (Indonesia), Kota Kita, the European Disability Forum and the International Disability Alliance will host the event titled ‘Disability, Resilience and Inclusion in our Cities’ on November 11th at 09:30 GMT.

GDI Hub will demonstrate the link between disability inclusion and sustainability to ensure climate conversations are also inclusive, particularly for climate preparations in the global south, evidenced by the release of a new show film to be released during the event. Low- and middle-income cities are often most vulnerable to changes in climate, and measures to protect infrastructure from harsher weather can make urban areas less inclusive. Indeed, evidence has shown that persons with disabilities are more vulnerable to climate change and other crises, making the case for the GDI Hub side event even more striking.

“We need to urgently consider how climate and crisis resilience can be disability-inclusive – we otherwise risk creating a future which excludes 2.1 billion people by 2050 – and that’s a conservative estimate. Our research is building an evidence base that shows the state of inclusion and accessibility today and what global action needs to be taken. We must ensure that all people can live as safely as possible. We know what needs to happen and we call on those discussing climate resilience to consider our recommendations.”, urged Iain McKinnon, Director of Inclusive Design at GDI Hub.

The research mentioned is the latest from the AT2030 programme’s Inclusive Infrastructure project, this time focusing on the Indian city of Varanasi. India’s oldest city, and a holy city for many, Varanasi attracts upwards of 5.5 million people every year as tourists and pilgrims. GDI Hub’s report captures key concerns which include inaccessible heritage sites and city streets unable to cope with rainfall, often leading the people of Varanasi to create their own innovative solutions to climate pressures.

Mikaela Patrick, GDI Hub Inclusive Design Researcher and Varanasi case study author added “We have succeeded in conducting research that has enabled knowledge exchange, and importantly, furthered action on implementing inclusive design in Varanasi and other cities. Through UK Aid funding and by using inclusive and participatory research methods, we’re finding out what matters to people and how climate resilience and inclusion are cross-cutting issues essential to the future of our cities.”

The report shows Varanasi’s city leaders being engaged and working towards solutions to preserve heritage, protect ancient buildings from climate change and ensure they can continue to sustain heavy footfall, whilst also improving accessibility for the city’s 100,000 disabled people. A complex task that GDI Hub argues is essential. Working with disabled people’s organisations, policy-makers and urban design practitioners including India’s National Institute of Urban Affairs, Kiran Society and the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee (IIT Roorkee), the research has so far produced valuable recommendations that GDI Hub will reference, alongside other insights, at COP26.

On the importance of the report’s recommendations and the GDI Hub side event at COP26, Professor Charlotte Watts, Chief Scientific Advisor & Director of Research and Evidence Directorate at the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

said, “We know that the impacts of climate change are happening now. Along with our efforts to prevent worse impacts, we need to ensure that cities and homes are resilient to adverse and extreme weather events, and the associated challenges this brings. Informed by the UK funded AT2030 project, at this side event the GDI Hub, working in partnership with organisations like ADB, aims to ensure that when climate resilient infrastructure is planned, it is inclusive of all citizens, including disabled people, to ensure it remains fit for purpose now and well into the future. We have one shot, and so getting it right first time is imperative.”

Notes to Editors

For more information or to speak to the researchers involved, please contact

Additional material

To view the COP26 Side event more info can be found here.

About GDI Hub (Global Disability Innovation Hub) - world’s first Official WHO Collaboration Centre on Assistive Technology

GDI Hub is a research and practice centre driving disability innovation for a fairer world, based out of UCL. GDI Hub was founded by top academic institutions and the team responsible for the London 2012 Paralympic Legacy programme. The team from GDI Hub, based at Here East on the Olympic Park in east London, also worked on the inclusive design of the Olympic Park and associated infrastructure to ensure it set a new benchmark globally. GDI Hub believes that disability innovation is more than a product, it’s a way of thinking. Disability innovation is part of a wider movement for justice for disabled people and the realisation of their human rights under the UN CRPD.

Currently operational in over 35 countries, GDI Hub works with more than 70 partners, delivering projects across a portfolio of £50m. GDI Hub has reached 21 million people since its launch in 2016 by developing bold approaches, building innovative partnerships, and creating ecosystems to accelerate change. GDI Hub also delivers the UCL, Loughborough University of London and London College of Fashion awarded MSc Disability, Design & Innovation.

GDI Hub leads the cutting-edge assistive technology programme, AT2030, funded by UK Aid, which tests ‘what works’ to get assistive technology to disabled people around the world. The AT2030 Inclusive Infrastructure sub-programme will produce six case study reports on inclusive design and the built environment in low- and middle-income countries which as well as Varanasi India includes; Ulaanbaatar Mongolia, Surakarta Indonesia, Nairobi Kenya and Freetown Sierra Leone. | | Follow @gdihub @AssistiveTech2030 on Twitter | Check in with our Instagram and Tiktok pages | Watch our YouTube channel and see our Facebook Page | Listen to GDI Hub’s Innovation Action podcasts | Catch up on GDI Hub LIVE Webinar series | See photos from GDI Hub in action on Flickr | #DisabilityInnovation