Improving accessibility to People with Disabilities in the Pacific

Pacific island countries (PICs) have a population of about 3.4 million people that spreads across hundreds of islands, and scattered over an area equivalent to 15 percent of the globe’s surface. This is a unique and diverse region, influenced by its economic geography, with unique challenges arising from remoteness. Fiji is the largest among the group, with a population of around 880,000, while Tuvalu, with an estimated population of 9,876 is the smallest country of the area. Kiribati is one of the most remote and geographically dispersed countries in the world, consisting of 33 islands spread over 3.5 million square kilometers of ocean – an area larger than India. Solomon Islands is geographically splintered with 1,000 small islands and atolls. It has a low population density with half a million people dispersed across the islands, 79 percent of whom are rural and 40 percent below the age of 14. It is the poorest country in the pacific when measured in terms of GNI per capita.
PICs have made significant progress in terms of socio economic development over the past decades. Life expectancy has increased, infant mortality rates have declined, and less people are struck with infectious disease. However, economic growth has been well below the global average for developing countries.

Transport, whether via roads, air or water, is vital to Pacific Island countries as it connects people to markets, schools, hospitals and family. Transportation, including air, road and maritime transport, is an essential asset for independent living. In many instances however, transport systems are not accessible to persons with disabilities, further hindering their mobility and access to economic opportunities as well as education and basic health services. Lack of accessibility is often caused by lack of enforcement of existing accessibility legislation, lack of expertise by transport professionals, combined with limited resources and stigma.