Mapping the inclusive city

Statistics capture many important measurements which are reported as facts, but who chooses what to measure and how it is measured and counted? If the lives of some people are left out of the research questions their facts become invisible. So researchers in the Netherlands took up the issue of inclusive data collection. The project was about mapping the inclusive city by engaging people with disability as co-researchers.

Improving the relevance and quality of research beyond statistical approaches, requires the involvement of community members with ‘the problem’. Image from Heeron Loo’s website.

Two women and two men are talking outside a building in the sunshine.

The research team, including people with disability, explored issues of accessibility in urban spaces. The digital map-based tools worked well and provided insights into accessible locations. However, it is not known if these locations are welcoming and inclusive. The notion of inclusion within places mapped needs a new design thinking cycle for all researchers.

Mapping accessibility is a different endeavour to mapping inclusion, and this research team has opened up the potential to find ways to map inclusion. Accessibility is an essential first step. Getting around is one thing, feeling welcoming with a sense of belonging is another. Urban design features and the attitudes of fellow citizens have an important role to play.

The title of the article is, Mapping the inclusive city: Engaging people with disabilities as co-researchers in Groningen (the Netherlands).

Traditional social research methods are discouraging of involving people with (intellectual) disabilities. This is largely because of governance issues relating to ethics committees. However, participatory research methods with people with disability are more acceptable. The article outlines the participatory research method emphasising the equal participation of all parties involved in the process.

From the abstract

Given the lack of collaboration with people with disabilities in (spatial) decision-making processes, our aim was to develop and test a method that allowed for the involvement of people with disabilities in community development, and in particular in mapping accessibility and inclusivity in various places and spaces in the city of Groningen (the Netherlands).

In this project, we collaborated with an organization that provides housing and care for clients with acquired brain injury, deafness with complex problems and chronic neurological disorders. We describe our approach and experiences in participatory research, focusing on the opportunities and challenges in developing and implementing a data collection method that enabled us to involve people with a disability as co-researchers.

Accessibility at bus stops

A research paper from Chile takes a similar approach. Instead of conducting a physical access audit, the researchers asked people about their bus stop experiences. It is another way of finding out how well access standards promote inclusive environments. Getting to and from the bus stop and boarding and alighting the bus all have to work together.

The researchers conclude that legislation and standards are insufficient to overcome gaps in this part of the travel chain. Consequently, people with disability are not afforded equal conditions.

The title of the paper is, Perceptions of people with reduced mobility regarding universal accessibility at bus stops: A pilot study in Santiago, Chile. You will need institutional access for a free read of the whole paper.

An orange articulated bus approaches a bus stop on a main road.

From the conclusions

This research is part of an interdisciplinary work that seeks to study universal accessibility for people with mobility impairments from different perspectives. From Engineering, it is important to highlight the relation to the dimensions of the space used, while in Occupational Therapy, it is relevant to include the perceptions when participating in the occupation.

The results contribute to the lived experiences of people with disability. They reveal the barriers, challenges, and opportunities that influence successful participation in mobility in the community. In conclusion, there is a lack of regulations regarding the characteristics of spaces. The perceptions of people with mobility impairments must be brought into the design to guarantee the right to move in equal conditions.


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