On disability: rights in open, smart cities

According to the World Health Organization, more than 1 billion people (15% of the global population) have some sort of disability, 150 million of which have serious difficulties.

A disability isn’t defined as solely a physical limitation, but more broadly as a restriction to participating in society. In this complex landscape of often unmet needs, evolving cities and emerging technology offer up new opportunities for integration, but also difficulties that are hard to identify and overcome. People with disabilities are seeking empowerment to reclaim the rights they are due.

To discuss the current panorama and future challenges and opportunities, national and international experts and representatives called together by Institut Guttmann and the Institute of Government and Public Policy (IGOP-UAB) met for a session of B·Debate −an initiative of Biocat and the “la Caixa” Foundation to promote scientific debate−, on the conference ‘Integrative Societies and Disability: Open and Smart cities from social sciences’.


  1. Disability is a social construct that encompasses a certain symbolic violence and barriers that are often invisible.
  2. People with disabilities are seeking empowerment to ensure their rights are respected, without the need for third-party paternalism

  3. Technology can help overcome physical and social barriers, but it must target specific problems. 
  4. Smart cities are an opportunity for inclusion, although they also run the risk of widening the digital gap.