Travelling Together: Disability Inclusive Road Development in Papua New Guinea

Road infrastructure is a recognised approach to poverty reduction in developing countries, through improving community access to essential services, social networks and economic opportunities.

Community participation is essential for the development of sustainable, effective and efficient road infrastructure development, which connects people and places appropriately, and benefits the poorest groups. The World Health Organization estimates that 15% of people live with disability, and evidence indicates that they are very often among the poorest groups of society. However, there is little evidence about the most effective ways to involve people with disability in road infrastructure planning.

About 'Travelling Together'

The research took place in Papua New Guinea (PNG) in 2010–13 and investigated:

  • Positive and negative impacts of roads on the lives of people with disability
  • How people with disability are currently involved in road and transport planning
  • The recommended approaches for engaging people with disability in road consultations, planning and management.

Project findings

Although roads improve access for people with disability to services, inaccessible road and transport infrastructure still severely limits their ability to travel freely and safely. Roads were planned for the needs of vehicles, not pedestrians, and decision-making regarding road development has not sought the perspectives of people with disability.

The key barriers to accessing roads identified by people with disability were:

  • lack of footpaths or graded road edges
  • lack of marked crossings
  • narrow bridges with limited pedestrian access
  • poor road drainage and maintenance
  • lack of marked bus stops
  • potholes, open drains, and other hazards
  • lack of public awareness of safe speeds and needs of people with impairments.

The facilitators that assisted people with disabilities in accessing roads were:

  • quiet, well-maintained roads
  • amenities such as street lights, bus stops or footpaths
  • public assistance in crossing or navigating roads.

Key findings include:

  • People with disability use roads extensively to access neighbouring towns, services, schools, stores, hospitals and other health facilities, churches, to visit friends and to carry out livelihood activities such as gardening
  • Construction and maintenance of roads generally increased access to essential services for people with disability, but increased traffic and speed of vehicles threatened access and safety
  • There was little awareness among road decision-makers about use of roads by people with disability, and minimal community consultation processes
  • Road decision-makers displayed little knowledge of road accidents or injuries, let alone whether these had involved people with disability
  • Road decision-makers were generally responsive to the idea of consulting with people with disability in future.

How will this research be used?

Research findings are informing the development of guidelines for road and transport infrastructure planners and implementers on how to include people with disability in their activities and better understand their needs as road users. People with disability and Disabled Persons Organisations (DPOs) can use the research findings in advocacy and providing advice about disability inclusion.

Who was involved in this project?

People with disability and DPOs have been engaged with each phase of the project. ‘Travelling Together’ is coordinated by the CBM Australia–Nossal Institute Partnership for Disability Inclusive Development and the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning (UoM) in partnership with the PNG Assembly for Disabled Persons, and Cardno Emerging Markets. The project was funded by the Australian aid program through an Australian Development Research Awards (ADRA).

Key project documents



Research products

Project details

Major Sponsor



Australian Development Research Award ADRA0900205 (2010-13)

Research Partners

University of Melbourne
CBM Australia – Nossal Institute Partnership for Disability Inclusive Development
Papua New Guinea Assembly of Disabled Persons
Cardno Global Infrastructure Services

Project Team

Professor Carolyn Whitzman
Lead Investigator
Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning
University of Melbourne
Phone: +61 3 8344 8723

Kathryn James
Melbourne Research Coordinator
CBM Australia
Phone: +61 3 8843 4542

Ipul Powaseu
PNG Research Officer
PNG Assembly of Disabled Persons