Accessibility has been ingrained in global legal and policy discourses as both a normative and operational concept. This is also the case on the regional and national level in Arab States[1]. However, despite the increased awareness of the importance of creating inclusive physical and digital environments[2], challenges remain.

This brief will focus on the component of environment/ physical accessibility. Information on the exact level of accessibility of the built environment in the Arab region is scarce. There is a shortfall of accessibility assessments and audits, even in large urban cities in the region. Exploring ways to fill this data gap is an important question, but one that is beyond the scope of this brief.

Why has it been a challenge to translate commitments to accessibility on the ground? Is ensuring accessibility always costly? What are some examples of innovative solutions to accessibility in the region? And how can these good practices be mainstreamed?

This brief aims to shed light on these questions, offer some good practices and provide recommendations to policymakers to help make the Arab region more inclusive of everyone, especially persons with disabilities.

What is accessibility?

“To enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life, States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas.”

Excerpt from Article 9 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons Disabilities (CRPD).

[1] 21 out of 22 Arab states have signed or ratified the CRPD, and many have passed national disability laws that identify the accessibility of the built environment and digital accessibility as legal rights. To view disability laws in the Arab region, see the resources section of ESCWA’s Arab Digital Inclusion Platform. Available at

[2]This brief focuses on the accessibility of the physical environment. To view ESCWA’s work on digital accessibility, see ESCWA’s Arab Digital Inclusion Platform. Available at