Samoa has implemented the Enhanced Road Access Project to restore important road assets damaged by extreme weather, also to enhance the climate resilience of critical roads and bridges. One of the actions under the project is to help remove barriers for persons with disabilities, acknowledging that this is a positive step towards ensuring sustainable development in many Pacific Island countries.
The transport sector in Samoa, and within many Pacific Island countries, currently does not adequately cater to the needs of persons with disabilities. This makes daily tasks, such as getting to and from work, a difficult process. Furthermore, Samoa is highly vulnerable to tropical storms, flooding and seismic activity, which have detrimental impacts on infrastructure service provision and the ability to access goods and social services such as health facilities. The impacts of climate change mean that there will be further disruptions and the challenges faced by persons with disabilities will only increase. The task faced is addressing how conditions can be improved for persons with disabilities. Two key issues include ensuring accessibility during day-to-day situations to ensure social inclusion, and building disaster preparedness for times of crisis to build social resilience for these vulnerable communities.
Taking the opportunity to proactively take the needs of vulnerable communities into account and include input from key stakeholders during project implementation, access guidelines and audits were implemented during the design phase for works to be carried out under the Enhanced Road Access Project (ERAP). Access guidelines from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment were used as a construction reference for road and bridge work to ensure that designs were inclusive of persons with disabilities and the features of accessibility such as ramps, wider pavements and signage are considered prior to construction. Access audits were undertaken by persons with disabilities with different needs including a site visit and scoring system to determine where improvements could be made to the design. In addition, higher design standards have been applied to infrastructure investments to help ensure there is increased climate resilience and reliability of the key transport routes financed under ERAP.
The disability advocacy agency, Nuanua o le Alofa (NOLA), was engaged under the project to undertake the access audits. Access audits have not routinely been carried out in Samoa, therefore the inclusion of these has helped to ensure that there are more suitable and user-friendly facilities. The desired outcome is that persons with disabilities are not only better able to navigate spaces and are able to do so with greater ease, but also feel safer in doing so. This is in line with the primary outcome of ERAP, which is to provide more sustainable access for all road users. In the longer term, increasing the climate resilience of infrastructure will help to build social resilience during severe weather events through ensuring connectivity and ensuring reliable access that will provide for more efficient and timely responses following disaster events.
Secondly, the project has helped to promote awareness within the community and among the Ministries regarding the challenges faced and the needs of vulnerable communities. There has also been institutional strengthening through greater collaboration and on-going communication between NOLA and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) in Samoa. The LTA are responsible for planning, constructing, maintaining and supervising the country’s national roads and land transport infrastructure. For example, LTA provide their services to facilitate the access audits and NOLA have provided training to the LTA on how to communicate through sign language.
Bank Group contribution
The Enhanced Road Access Project is funded through a US$15 million grant from the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for those most in need, and a US$5 million grant from the World Bank’s Crisis Response Window.
The project is being implemented by the government of Samoa. Partnerships with local organizations, such as NOLA, are helping to deliver a great project and wider social outcomes through fostering inclusivity.
The project is also funded through AU$13 million from the Government of Australia, through the Pacific Regional Infrastructure Facility (PRIF) and the Australia Pacific Islands Partnership.
Going forward, the same approach can be used on future projects within Samoa. The benefit in Samoa is that the relationships between stakeholders already exist and can be further built upon. In addition, NOLA have shown strong support for further involvement in future projects.
Across Pacific Island countries there is the potential for the same approach to be implemented using the lessons learned from Samoa to help planning for vulnerable communities. The relatively low time and financial costs associated with carrying out the audits also means that it can be reasonably implemented with no, or only slightly minor, adjustments.
The principal beneficiaries are persons with disabilities located primarily within Apia. Specifically, the infrastructure investments will help to provide or improve access and assure future access for persons with disabilities to and from places of residences, work, and leisure.