Mobility, as Creswell writes, is not “a capacity of individual inalienable properties of bodies but a product of a multitude of human/environment interfaces – a product of geography” (2006: 167). Objects, tools, technologies and infrastructures of the everyday continuously act back on us and function, so to say, as “a large systematic prosthesis” (Jackson 2010: 6) that mediates, curtails, extends, channels and at times directly undertakes our actions. But given that bodies vary in their capacities and forms and these corporealities might need different, perhaps conflicting, environmental extensions 1, then the geography/prosthesis metaphor begs a very question: To which body is it made to fit? The need interrogate the democracy embodied in everyday landscapes is also politically apt because mobility is considered as “fundamental to the liberty of the human body” and its rights are even laid down in Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom (Imrie 2000: 1642, see also Government of Canada, 2013). But to what degree does the physical layout of shared geographies accommodate bodily differences and provide them the material grounds for their fundamental right to move to be exercised? Or more plainly, does everyday geographies support the movement and mobility of certain bodies over others?The proposed research seeks to answer this question from the perspectives of critical disability studies and mobility studies. Through the use of participatory action research and visual ethnography, it explores the “taskscapes” (Ingold 2000) that disabled people live on a day-to-day basis and exposes them to the public via the creation of a series of video capsules. Three individuals who live in the same urban space, Montreal 2, and whose movement and mobility are effected by different types of impairments (sensory and physical) are regularly videotaped and interviewed over the course of six months at various public and private places (e.g. home, school, public transport, cultural events). The questions that are asked are: How do disabled individuals engage with their immediate physical and attitudinal environments through their micro movements and behaviors? What are the affective dimensions of city-scape, architecture, objects and technologies and other fine details of everyday life that are oft-overlooked when not disabled? Are certain bodily forms and capacities engineered into these various forms of materialities? To what degree does enjoying from the benefits of civic life, urban mainstreams and even private spaces depend upon meeting these assumptions? What are the invisible means of exclusion that people with various disabilities are subject to because of the way that everyday geographies are made to meet the material needs of a general population?The collected fieldwork materials will be edited into 5-10 minutes of individual short clips and broadcast on the project’s website under three themes: on surfaces, with things and in words. These themes conceptualize body-environment interactions in relation to the locations of disability and at the same time problematize the ableism underlying oft-used action verbs (such as walking which could have been wheeling and talking, hearing which could have been signing).
1. For instance, whilst people in wheelchairs may find tactile paving uncomfortable, the information provided by them can be essential to the navigation of the blind; or while people in wheelchairs need ramps, amputees may prefer steps (see Imrie 2000: 1648).
Cresswell, T. (2006) On the Move: Mobility in the Modern Western World, New York: Routledge.
Government of Canada (2013) Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom, [last accessed December 2013].
Imrie, R. (2000) “Disability and discourses of mobility and movement,” Environment and Planning A, 32: 1641-56.
Ingold, T. (2000) Perception of the Environment, Essays on Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill, London: Routledge.
Jackson, S. (2011) Social Works: Performing Art, Supporting Publics, New York: Routledge.
Dr. Arseli Dokumacı