EU and UNESCO provide support to ‘Accessible Jordan’

Amman, Jordan

"Accessible Jordan"

Aya Aghabi, 26, founded out of necessity. In 2009, she was in a serious car accident that left her with a physical disability and dependent upon a wheelchair to maintain her mobility. Soon, Aya moved to the United States to complete her undergraduate studies at UC Berkeley in California. Having been exposed to true independence in the US, in terms of being able to navigate the city on her own in her wheelchair, Aya was disheartened to return to Jordan and encounter the limitations in terms of accessibility.

Aya grew tired of having to sit on her laptop for hours before going out, trying to find out if she would be able to enter a certain restaurant or hotel. She starting talking to others with mobility challenges, including parents with children in strollers and elderly citizens struggling with stairs and realized the true pervasiveness of the accessibility issue in Jordan. In September 2017, she launched, an online accessibility resource that documents accessible restaurants, hotels, tourist attractions and local sites across Jordan, providing a short description of each place. Aya feels strongly that, “just because you have mobility constraints doesn’t mean you have to be stuck at home!”

Currently, Aya runs Accessible Jordan as a hobby, in addition to her full time work. However, starting this summer, she will begin to receive some much-needed support. Within the framework of UNESCO's Networks for Mediterranean Youth project (NET-MED Youth), UNESCO aims at supporting the youth-led initiatives. Funded by the European Union (EU), the NET-MED Youth project is a four-year regional project implemented in collaboration with youth organizations, institutions and partners. In Jordan, the project works towards enhancing the effective participation of youth in developing and implementing national strategies and policies affecting youth through increasing their access to relevant information and resources. In achieving that goal, it strives to reduce the fragmentation of efforts and to harness the collective potential of youth in affecting democratic transition towards active citizenship, political participation, economic development, and social inclusion.

As Aya’s website works to address the needs of people with disabilities through access to information via an online platform, the EU-funded NET-MED project will finance a web developer to support Aya in launching a new, high-tech platform. The new site will go live at the end of summer 2018 and the user-friendly interface being developed will serve to make it simple for citizens to contribute their feedback on accessibility, lifting a burden from Aya who currently has to input all of the user feedback on her own.

“I am thrilled to have this support. My hope is that this website will encourage the Jordanian government and all business owners to work on the accessibility of spaces to make Jordan inclusive for all people. I also hope that this website will make it easier for people with disabilities from all around the world to come and visit Jordan”, says Aya.

“What has most surprised me about starting this initiative is how it has opened a real conversation. Finally in Jordan, people are now taking up the challenges to accessibility as an issue and there is a dialogue that has begun around solutions and progress”.

In 2017, a “Youth Policies Review” was initiated by the NET-MED Youth project in Jordan. Within this, disability among youth was considered a significant vulnerability, hindering 22% of Jordanians from ever enrolling in education, according to the Department of Statistics. One of the recommendations that emerged from the review focused on further institutionalized measures or interventions ensuring an enabling environment for the integration of youth with disabilities struggling to access basic services such as employment and health.

Now that is picking up momentum, embassies, businesses and UN agencies are reaching out to Aya to ask for her support. Recently, Aya toured several embassies and provided recommendations on how they could make changes to improve their accessibility. Recently, a well-established bank transformed many of their branches to become accessible and others are racing to follow suit. In addition, Aya is pleased that she can now enjoy one of her favorite Jordanian restaurants as it has installed a motorized lift.

“What has most surprised me about starting this initiative is how it has opened a real conversation. Finally in Jordan, people are now taking up the challenges to accessibility as an issue and there is a dialogue that has begun around solutions and progress”.

Inclusion lies at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, speaking to the notion of empowerment and the principle of no discrimination. This is reflected in the pledge to leave no one behind and in the vision of a “just, equitable, tolerant, open and socially inclusive world in which the needs of the most vulnerable are met”. Aya’s Accessible Jordan aspirations align with this vision. Specifically, SDG 11 focuses on “sustainable cities and communities” and outlines the importance of, “creating accessible cities and water resources, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems, providing universal access to safe, inclusive, accessible and green public spaces”.

Aya is heartened that progress is slowly but steadily taking place. “I feel so good when I receive messages saying things like ‘I finally got to take my elderly dad to a place he used to love to eat but has not been able to access for such a long time’. It’s that kind of feedback that keeps me going” she shares.

In the upcoming future, Aya wants to begin working on community projects to improve accessibility in different places, contributing to an even bigger awareness campaign on the issue. “My dream is to see Jordan become the inclusive country and community that I know it can be”.

For more information about Accessible Jordan visit: &