After working on the Accessibility Handbook remotely from Finland, it was a great experience to travel to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and learn more about accessibility in the local context. During our week-long visit, we had a schedule filled with tours in the city, multiple site visits, and meetings with professionals that helped us to better understand accessibility and its related issues in Ethiopia. Accessibility has been gaining more recognition and awareness in Ethiopia, as we observed ourselves during a visit to Abrehot library - the largest library in the country where accessibility is enhanced with automatic entrance doors, elevators, a braille library, and a reading hall for people with visual impairment. Despite the good examples of accessible environments, the majority of public buildings, urban spaces, and transportation networks remain largely inaccessible, often limiting persons with disabilities from accessing basic services, such as education and health care.
The Disability Development Initiative (DDI) has continuously worked on raising awareness of disability inclusion and accessibility in Ethiopia. With the support of Invalidiliitto and ESKE, DDI has organized yearly accessibility training courses for architecture and engineering students at Addis Ababa University. DDI has also performed over 200 school accessibility surveys and six accessibility audits using ESKE-adapted methods for auditing. And most importantly, in January 2023, DDI completed its first-ever accessibility renovation project at the Dil Be Tigel Primary School in Addis Ababa. We were pleased to visit the primary school just a week after the renovation was completed. (Main photo: Entrance to classroom, before and after renovation.)
The school's principal Negasi Berhe, DDI's director Yosef Fekadu and the DDI's architect Mekdelawit Tesfaye welcomed us to the primary school and gave us a tour of the renovated school's compound. The renovation of the school's site was completed in only four months, and a lot was accomplished - the school now has new accessible pathways that incorporate tactile tiles and ramps to connect the entrance with the school's main services, including at least one classroom, a dining hall, and a restroom. In addition to this school project, DDI plans to renovate more schools in Addis Ababa in the coming years, allowing more students with disabilities to participate in the education process.
Learning about and seeing the significant work of DDI in the field of disability inclusion and accessibility helped me better understand the local environment, accessibility-related issues, and needs. We also organized a small accessibility workshop at DDI's office, where we were able to improve and develop the scope and contents for the Accessibility Handbook, which will help us to proceed and develop it for the upcoming months. Aside from the professional learnings, a memorable part of the visit was the Ethiopian culture and traditions, which we were fortunate to experience through the beautiful Timket celebration, as well as during Ethiopian coffee ceremonies and on a daily basis through conversations with our colleagues. All in all, I am very grateful for the opportunity to spend a week in Ethiopia, as it turned out to be both a valuable professional and a very memorable personal experience.