A key objective of community development is to enhance the quality of
life for everyone in an inclusive manner.
Considered by many as a Utopian concept, community development is a
continuous process consisting of various actions that empower members of the
civil society to increase the quality of life with a particular emphasis on
equity for those at a socio-economic disadvantage.
However, this definition is in direct conflict with the neo-liberal
philosophies of commentators such as Frederick Hayek and Milton Friedman who
question this concern of civil society for ensuring equity of opportunity among
the socially deprived, simultaneously condemning their work as depleting the
degree of freedom of the individual.
To understand this concern for equity, one could refer to recent
research by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett in The Spirit Level: Why Greater
Equality Makes Societies Stronger, (Bloomsbury Press, 2009), where the two
authors use statistical analysis across a dozen developed countries and fifty
American States to prove that inequality is a trigger for a vast range of
In today’s social milieu, it is a given that the poor have shorter
lifespans and are a target of almost every social problem including violence,
lack of community life, teen pregnancy and mental illness. The problems of an
unequal society affect not only the disadvantaged but also the middle class and
the rich, leading to the conclusion that a less than equal society is bad for
Healthcare and accessible
Visionary Design Development’s proposed mobile eye clinic program in
Cambodia is based on the challenges in public healthcare in the country. Delivery
of basic services in rural areas is difficult due to a lack of infrastructure
and human resource capacity, with the low population density making it
expensive. The eye health sector suffers from the same shortcomings as the broader
health systems with insufficient human resources to meet the demand for ophthalmologists,
cataract surgeons, optometrists, ophthalmic nurses and refractionists,
particularly in rural areas.
Statistics from Cambodia with a total population of 14 million reveal that
1.4 million people have impaired distance vision. As many as two million would
benefit immediately from eye examinations and a pair of spectacles costing as
little as $5.
Accessible Community Care will be developed further in VDD Studio’s third
Good access is invisible
Visionary Design Development eschews the practice of viewing human
ability through a dichotomous abled/disabled lens. VDD believes that society’s collective
failure in delivering an accessible built environment stems from its assumptions
of an extremely narrow range of variation in human ability.
VDD aims for building designs where the accessibility ‘features’ are
invisible; designing in accordance with Universal Design principles assists in
this regard, and also enhances sustainability.
As part of the organisation’s advocacy efforts for the development of socially
accessible communities, Visionary Design Development, along with valuable input
from VDD Studio member Saumya Kaushik, made a submission to the Senate Economics
References Committee inquiry into affordable housing.
In part, the submission reads:
“Social accessibility is an emerging notion in contemporary discourse on
urban development and social justice. We understand a socially accessible community
to be one where a range of resources, for example, appropriate housing, public
transport, jobs, services and social networks, necessary to maintain a
reasonable quality of life, are available to be accessed and enjoyed by all
members of society - including people with disabilities, people from low
socio-economic backgrounds, those under-qualified or unemployed - not merely
those with a certain level of wealth. Social accessibility is a useful term on which
to frame an approach to socially just urban development, deliberately departing
from other terminologies, such as ‘liveability’ and ‘urban regeneration’ that
can be both limited and misleading in their application. In particular,
measures of liveability and strategies for regeneration do not typically consider
those who do not have access to the ‘liveable’ city or ‘regenerated’ neighbourhood
Visionary Design Development acknowledges the disadvantages suffered by
people with disabilities and works toward a more equitably accessible world.
Please contact Ralph or Mary Ann to discuss community development