In the Smart City bits and atoms mix to create new opportunities. But what happens if the new paradigm is applied to overcoming disabilities? This was the topic addressed by experts during the workshop “Smart Cities and Multiple Sclerosis” organized by Biogen, the company of reference on a worldwide level in the sector of biotechnologies.

The results of the Eurisko research “Living in the city with multiple sclerosis” formed the starting point for a multidisciplinary workshop coordinated by the architect and engineer Carlo Ratti, Director of the MIT Senseable City Lab in Boston, on overcoming disabilities in the “Sensible City.

According to the research, which investigated through in-depth interviews the experiences and expectations of 40 persons with multiple sclerosis in various stages, the feeling of frustration and resignation in the face of obstacles encountered outside the home can be balanced by faith in new technologies to improve quality of life.

Technology, online and in the digital world, according to the results presented by Eurisko, contributes to create the sensation of the home as a safe nest with respect to the environment outside, in disabled people and their families. But this domestic comfort runs the risk of transforming the walls of the home into a “gilded cage.” According to the disabled and their families, the potential of new technologies if applied to making the city “totally accessible” has yet to be utilized.

“The world of real time data – says Carlo Ratti – is transforming our cities. An intelligent city is not made of technology, but of citizens who play an essential role: the main function is to gather, share and process data. Connected citizens are the motor of change in the urban fabric for the city of tomorrow.”

Precisely in this sense, the concept of innovation can be developed in “Sensible cities” where technology is always the means of guaranteeing “Well-Being” and of improving the lives of all citizens.

“According to Biogen – Giuseppe Banfi, CEO of Biogen, concludes – science should make a significant difference in the lives of people, so we thought it was important, in a moment in which Milan is at the center of worldwide interest, to raise the issues of how scientific research, medicine, new technologies and design can be placed at the service of people impacted by pathologies of great social scope, not just in the clinical dimension but also in the life of the society itself.”

From the Smart City to the Sensible City, the five golden rules

The encounter with the participation of patients, family members, students of architecture, design, medicine and physiatry, a series of guidelines emerged for the “Sensible City.”

–  The Sensible City should be like a garment tailored for everyone: atoms and bits at the service of the disabled, to break down physical barriers and include the disabled in every aspect of urban life.

– The Sensible City is not limited to civic spaces, but pervades the private sphere, offering adequate support for the disabled also in the work context, and in terms of relations and recreation-leisure.

– The institutions and administrations have to guide the process, but businesses can also do their part, passing from a concept of CSR to true corporate social innovation.

– The disabled, the associations of patients, have to be an active part of the process, bringing constructive proposals and not surrendering to the threat of isolation.

– Without the commitment of all citizens there can be no Sensible City: they are the motor of change, the first source of gathering and sharing of input, proposals and critiques. Because everyone, in one phase of life or another, can find themselves among the ranks of the disabled.