Beyond Access: what disability studies can teach us about transport and infrastructure

Authors: Raquel Velho*, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Topics: Disabilities, Transportation Geography
Keywords: disability studies, accessibility, mobility justice
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Grand Ballroom C, Astor, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Using the case of wheelchair users and transport in London, this paper highlights the experience of a marginalized group to investigate how they embed (some of) their needs into the network despite struggles with accessibility. There are two main arguments. The first contends that the barriers faced by wheelchair users in transport are the result of infrastructural stabilization that occurred in a period of social segregation (1850s-1950s). This will be discussed through a brief history of the transport network in London, using illustrative examples of the difficulties still faced by wheelchair users today. The second argument holds that wheelchair users, despite segregation and exclusion, have taken an active role in the process of shaping the transport system in London. In this role, they have developed inclusion mechanisms through collective and political activism, as well as on an individual ad-hoc level.

This project places the experiences of wheelchair users at the forefront of academic research. In doing so, it shows their engagement with and impact on transport infrastructure, but also deconstructs the commonly held assumption that disabled people are passive members of society. It therefore advances that the frame of disability studies can provide fascinating new insights into the world of transport, specifically, and infrastructures more generally.

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