EnteKochi a city for all!
The EnteKochi process aims to encourage participation and engagement with various stakeholders in the city. The differently abled population represent one such essential demographic for us in the design and planning of cities. A space for such was enabled at the EnteKochi exhibition space in Fort Kochi on the 16th of May 2019. Participants included differently abled groups, their representatives and activists. Inclusivity was the primary theme of the event.
In a short introductory presentation by GIZ, on Integrated Urban development the concept of Participatory planning was introduced as a creative way to find solutions to contemporary urban challenges if possible, on a consensus basis . EnteKochi gave the citizens and other stakeholders a platform to contribute to and influence the decision-making process. The emphasis was on the scattered expertise that lay within the room, and the need for different stakeholders to work together to achieve true inclusion. Further, through a series of photomontages, ideas of considering and negotiate the needs and wishes of all user groups of a city, negotiating between existing services and its efficacy, emerging urban concepts in Indian cities which foster inclusion, the ideas of dedicated user lanes on roads, ramps, tactile flooring, etc were discussed.
This led to a long interactive session were all the participants either contributed with their experiences or their expertise. Lively discussions ranging from universal access and the universal design of spaces to empathy and creating awareness about such population groups amongst the public took place. Sona Jose, an expert on universal access design, working as a consultant on projects across India shared her expertise about the public spaces being designed and built with universal access already in Kochi. Independence and self-reliance were topics that were raised repeatedly by several participants. Both Dixon and Paresh Palicha are wheel chair users and they pointed out that despite Kochi taking steps towards considering the differently abled, they couldn’t function in a public space without help from another person. There were the beginnings of some cross sectoral discussions when Mr. Sunil Mathew with his expertise in vocational training for the blind offered to help Mr. B.V. George in assisting the students of his school suffering from autism, cerebral palsy, mixed disabilities, etc. with future Possibilities. Minel Meisheri representing Raksha Vocational Training Centre also shared her expertise in this regard. Seema Lal, a psychologist and researcher working with autistic children spoke about positive change addressing the ‘segregation between all groups’.
Through a two hour discussion session in the relentless heat of FortKochi, both the participants and organisers spoke about the basic tenet of having a positive attitude towards life, no matter what one’s situation in life. The importance of having an openness to learn and understand about such causes were important takeaways for all participants. In conclusion a common consensus on not focusing on facilitating any one special user group or disability, but everyone equally to make the processes within the city truly inclusive was arrived at. The participants were enthusiastic about joining future exchange events, design workshops, activities on a neighbourhood level, expert dialogues, etc. and to contribute to the participatory process enabled by EnteKochi.