Disability and Planning Research

A book and notepad lay open on a desk in a library.Planning research has not yet evolved to include disability perspectives. Is it because the medical model of disability still prevails? Or is it mistakenly believed that disability is not a design issue? Some might say it’s because the needs of people with disability are fragmented across government departments. Practitioners in the planning field are required to engage with communities, but it seems the researchers are not keeping up. 

Two Canadian researchers took a look at the situation. A search of five prominent planning journals showed that people with disability largely remain invisible. The researchers found just 36 articles – most of which come from the US and the UK. Only 20 had people with disability as the central topic. 

The authors describe the content of the papers that go back as far as 1916. Attitudes towards people with disability clearly changed over the years but including them in research did not. Papers that did mention people with disability generally added them to a list of other groups considered vulnerable or marginalised. 

The paper concludes:

“Planning researchers and practitioners, therefore, must continue to question what knowledge, assumptions, and biases we may have toward PWD and experiences of disability that manifest through our environment. More broadly, planning scholarship can be strengthened by continuous questioning of self—on the processes through which certain knowledge is produced or a pursuit of certain knowledge is prioritised within the discipline. The development of critical discourse focusing on PWD can be a vehicle for such self-reflection.

The title of the article is, The Precarious Absence of Disability Perspectives in Planning Research. It is open access on cogitation press website, or you can download directly

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