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Accessible Public Space for the ’not obviously disabled’? Jeopardized selfhood in an era of welfare retraction....

Accessible Public Space for the ’not obviously disabled’? Jeopardized selfhood in an era of welfare retraction.

Alan Roulstone, Northumbria University alan.roulstone@northumbria.ac.uk
Hannah Morgan, Lancaster University h.morgan@lancaster.ac.uk

Abstract:
Public space tends to be understood as a technical, physical measureable space external to the individual, technologies likewise are constructed as new technical means to afford or limit access to those environments. Our interest is to tap into the space between disabled people’s self perceptions and the increasingly harsh welfare and media discourses around ‘not genuinely disabled people’. In this sense enabling or disabling space is part physical, part social, and part psychological transaction. The increasingly political emphasis on a sifting the ‘real’ disabled people from the army of ‘malingering opportunists’ ignores the complex relationship between the individual, environment and economy. It also ignores medical, welfare and wider social constructions of just who counts as disabled.

Disabled people can feel they are genuinely disabled in one definition and context and not another. In this presentation we wish to problematise space and technology to think about space as a contested terrain, both imagined and real where lives are constructed as more or less acceptable in a new corporal (bodily) economy. We want to reshape notions of technologies as those things that shape opportunities, in this sense government and political discourses are technologies that profoundly shape how we think about acceptability of sharing space with others. Who counts as disabled and deserving of legitimate use of public space is key to our proposed presentation.

Paper presented at the Disability and Public Space Conference, Oslo University College, Oslo, Norway, 28-29th April 2011.

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Oslo2011 roulstoneandmorgan Oslo2011 roulstoneandmorgan Presentation Transcript

  • ACCESSIBLE PUBLIC SPACE FOR THE ‘NOT OBVIOUSLY DISABLED’ ?JEOPARDIZED SELFHOOD IN AN ERA OF WELFARE RETRACTION
    Alan Roulstone & Hannah Morgan
    Disability and Public Space Conference
    Oslo, April 2011
  • Our Contention
    That space, or public space to be precise, is more than the sum, of physical, technological space and that psycho-social environments created by public discourses need to be understood if we are to understand disabling/enabling space.
    This is especially true where an impairment is hidden, contested or fluctuating
  • Freund Bodies, Disability & Spaces
    “Here I stress sociomaterial space. The social organisation of space is not merely a place in which social interaction occurs, it structures such interaction. Congregating, avoiding people, movement and other practices constitute spatial patterns”
    Sociomaterial space is not simply inert material—a configuration of asphalt and concrete – but exposes and structure’s social life”
    (2001:694)
  • Acknowledging Spatial Change/Potentialities
    ‘The rapid expansion of disabled persons’ geographically dispersed social networks is a key aspect of the Internet’s advantages in overcoming physical barriers. According to our survey data, 62.1% of respondents claim that most of their friends contacted via the Internet are distant, while only 2.5% of respondents report that most of their friends were distant before they became Internet users. It suggests that Internet-mediated communication has greatly expanded disabled persons’ social interactions in their geographical scope’
    Guoa et al, 2010
  • Dyck (1995) Hidden Geographies
    “The majority of women were found to experience shrinking social and geographical worlds which rendered their lives increasingly hidden from view as patterns of social interaction changed and use of public space diminished”
    (1995:307)
  • Kitchen: Out of Place-Knowing One’s Place (1998)
    ‘…space, as well as time, is instrumental in reproducing and sustaining disablist practices. Disability has distinct spatialities that work to exclude and oppress disabled people. Spaces are currently organised to keep disabled people 'in their place' and 'written' to convey to disabled people that they are 'out of place....
    As a result, forms of oppression and their reproduction within ideologies leads to distinct spatialities with the creation of landscapes of exclusion, the boundaries of which are reinforced through a combination of the popularising of cultural representations and the creation of myths.’ (1998: 351)
  • Psycho-emotional disablism : experiencing space
    Barriers to being exist alongside barriers to doing and have the potential to be more pervasive, persistent and disabling.
    Emotional cost of moving through space (Reeve 2008)
    Experience of those with hidden impairment
    May avoid the ‘stare’ but negative psycho-emotional aspects of concealment’ (Thomas, 1999: 55)
    How to access disability status/ facilities
  • Disability Status: Easy Access?
  • Psycho-Social Notions of Disability and Space
    Psycho-social space can be defined as:
    The result of the interplay of physical, institutional, political and interpersonal constructions of ‘desirable states’
    Space is synonymous with ‘locations’ which welcome, exclude or other disabled people
    Space can be an object, a process, an existential sense of belonging/exclusion
  • New Work & Welfare Discourses
    “I want to support the person who leaves their house at six or seven in the morning, goes out and does perhaps a low-paid job in order to provide for their family and is incredibly frustrated when they see on the other side of the street the blinds pulled down and someone sitting there and living on out-of-work benefits” (British Chancellor of the Exchequer, Budget Speech, June 22nd 2010)
  • Harsher Public Environments
    “….the benefits system is 'bust' and carries such disincentives to work that many people on benefits regard those who enter employment as 'bloody morons”. Ian-Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, 15th June, 2011
  • Disabled People and Targeted Contempt
    ‘…officials believe that in 2009/10 some £60million was paid out to able-bodied fraudsters in disability allowances - up 50 per cent in just six years - bringing the total losses to taxpayers through crime and error to an astonishing £1billion since 2004’.Daily Mail Newspaper 24th August 2010
  • Welfare Secretary of StateFebruary 10th 2011
    “The truth is quite a lot of what we here politically term constantly as fraud is often complexity error, which is very easy for us to then say this is fraud and people feel quite stigmatised by that….the truth is quite a lot is nothing to do with them, it’s the system itself”.
    “It simply means they didn’t understand what they were meant to be doing and now they are apparently committing fraud and a lot of them didn’t know that was the case”.
  • ‘Benefit Scrounging Scum’ Blog
    I don't think about what might happen to me if the government's proposed threats/changes actually materialise. I firmly push it to the back of my mind, burying it as deep as I can so not to be overwhelmed by panic and fear about a situation I can do nothing about.. [...] The kind of fear that is hard to describe. The type that sits, deep in the pit of your stomach and travels up in to your throat where if you let it will clench it's fist and take hold starving you of breath. (BBC Ouch web blog)
  • Conclusions
    Space as it relates to disability should embrace:
    The physical and technological environment
    The exercising of power in those public spaces and the private/public crossover
    The psycho-social space that is created by powerful interpreters of social life/worth
    The interplay of the above