Government Response on Accessibility
In recent years, the government has taken some concrete measures to improve accessibility, including by adopting mandatory accessibility standards for urban architecture. However, the standards relate only to accessibility for people with “movement restrictions,” ignoring accessibility requirements for people with other types of disabilities. In addition, the standards are not available in an accessible and readable format for people who are not architects or engineers. Our research could not determine if and how the principles of Universal Design have been considered in creating these standards.
Since 2015, the national and provincial Headquarters to Coordinate and Follow-up on Accessibility have carried out policy-making, planning, monitoring, and creation of a national database on accessibility at the national and provincial levels. In 2016, the Headquarters on Accessibility collected information on accessibility in public agencies by investigating roughly 1,200 public agencies in 31 provinces for compliance with 13 criteria on building accessibility.
The results found that public agencies in Yazd province were the most accessible, meeting 59 percent of the accessibility criteria, while Tehran province’s public buildings were the least accessible at 24 percent. The National Gas Corporation and the Foundation of Martyrs and Veterans Affairs were the most accessible agencies, while the Iran Medical Council and Iran Broadcasting Organization were the least accessible.
In recent years, municipalities around the country have appointed advisors on citizens with disabilities or urban accessibility, some of whom are persons with disabilities. For example, in Isfahan, persons with disabilities and their organizations have participated in accessibility evaluations of 80 government bodies. In Shiraz, each of the ten municipal districts have appointed one person with a disability as accessibility consultants.
Pooya, a blind man who advocates for disability rights, said that based on his observations, the appointment of persons with disabilities as advisors in many cities may be largely symbolic. “I do value this even as a symbolic action. But, […] the level of real impact depends on the will and interest of officials to seek and listen to the opinions of people with disabilities.” The UN CRPD Committee has also expressed concerns regarding the lack of information about how “representative organizations of persons with disabilities are consulted in the development of measures to accomplish accessibility.”
However, our research indicates that persons with disabilities are not always meaningfully included in the accessibility planning, implementation, or monitoring processes. Javad, a disability rights advocate with a physical disability said, “If they included us in what they intend to do for out benefit, then we could see a much better outcome in making sidewalks, roads, and other public facilities accessible. I was really disappointed when I realized that such meagre resources available for making cities accessible was wasted simply because they don’t ask the eventual users to participate.” Ziba, a woman with a physical disability, said that she found a park advertised as a “disabled persons park” mostly inaccessible. “I only could use one of the entrances with my wheelchair. The benches where not designed to be accessible and the ramps were often [too] steep. I was so disappointed to find that this was mostly for show.
The National Headquarters on Accessibility recently introduced a text message system, known as “Mabar,” through which people can report accessibility problems with public roads and public buildings. According to the authorities, upon verifying the complaint, the Headquarters’ secretariat will follow-up with relevant bodies to resolve the issue. In our research we could not find publicly-available information on the mechanism, including the number of complaints and any outcomes.
Our research did not identify any legal case resulting in sanctions for non-compliance with accessibility standards. The law envisages denial of construction permits or completion certificates to public roads and buildings which fail to fulfill accessibility standards. However, the government of Iran has not made public any information about implementation of this regulation.