Envisioning the city: exploring the everyday mobilities of visually impaired young people

Accessible and socially inclusive transport has become a significant concern of academic enquiry in transport studies, as planners and policy makers have sought to understand the spatio-economic relationships and decision-making processes that influence levels of mobility related social exclusion. However, much transport research on visual impairment (VI) and mobility tends to be either highly quantitative, or that which focuses on particular aspects of mobility experiences such as public transport (eg. Hine and Mitchell, 2001) or driving (eg. Wood, 2002). These studies have usefully illuminated issues associated with the built environment such as the physical barriers to VI mobility or visually restricted driving performances. Yet this work is less engaged with the vast heterogeneity associated with VI mobility and particularly the everyday mobility experiences of young people with VI.

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Many of the mobility challenges in cities facing young people with VI involve the negotiation of a sequence of different mobilities between their home and travel destination (eg. bus-train-tube-walk) – each with its own spatiality, its own rhythms and affordances, and its own systems of governance. Each of these necessitates certain knowledges, strategies and tactics, if they are to be passed through effectively. Jennie Middleton, in collaboration with David Banister (Transport Studies Unit), Harry Daniels (Department of Education, University of Oxford), and the Royal London Society for the Blind (RLSB), have recently been funded by the John Fell Fund to examine how such knowledge and practices emerge in the everyday lives of young people in London with VI and, in doing so, explore how such practices relate to broader physical, social, and cultural barriers to particular forms of movement. The project is using a combination of video and in-depth interview methods in order to better understand the challenges facing young people with VI as they negotiate urban space. In doing so it will not only enhance knowledge of the overlapping time-spaces of transport infrastructures in the everyday lives of VI young people but generate recommendations about how these could be better organised and promoted in the future.

Dr Jennie Middleton

Senior Research Fellow, Transport Studies Unit

More info: http://www.tsu.ox.ac.uk/people/jmiddleton.html

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