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Title: Powered Wheelchair Users’ Experiences of Urban Mobility: Researching Access and Disablement through Mobile Methodologies and Digital Technologies
Authors: Rodger, Sunil
Issue Date: 2022
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: Inaccessible environments and transportation exclude disabled people from full participation in society. Accessibility is affected by a wide range of socio-material factors, including the interaction between the environment and mobility devices. Yet to date, little research has investigated powered wheelchair users’ experiences of mobility, or how their knowledge might inform policymakers or service providers. In this thesis, I have worked with powered wheelchair users to document their experiences of mobility and explore how these might be conveyed to other people. An observational go-along method was used, travelling with thirteen participants as they captured their experiences using ‘JourneyCam’, a bespoke smartphone video and data collection tool. The data were used as prompts in semi-structured interviews following each journey. Two further participants were interviewed without first using JourneyCam. Finally, through a series of group workshops, nine participants explored how their collective experiences and knowledge might be used to create more accessible environments. Powered wheelchair users accumulate situated knowledge which they use to navigate disabling barriers, but this knowledge is gained through significant personal labour and experiences of psycho-emotional disablism. Participants highlighted a wide range of socio-material enablers and disablers to their mobility, including barriers associated with poorly implemented ‘accessibility’ features. However, their efforts to convey their knowledge to service providers were met with indifference, and funnelled through individualised complaints processes. In response participants sought more effective modes of engagement that might bring about systemic change, in line with their commitment to social model principles of confronting structural disablement. I conclude that not only could powered wheelchair users’ situated knowledge be a valuable resource for service providers and policymakers, but it is also a form of collective resistance to ableist societal practices. The social model of disability remains relevant for disabled people’s efforts to counter disablement, serving as an ‘oppositional device’ that fosters shared resistance.
Description: Ph. D. Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

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