Pedestrians with Disabilities and Town and City Streets: From Shared to Inclusive Space?
This article highlights the importance of ensuring that accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities, as required by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, is fully embedded in efforts to reduce the dominance of cars in city streets and promote more active modes of travel (including walking, wheeling and cycling) in line with global agendas. Drawing on emerging findings from the Inclusive Public Space research project, we present and critically reflect on types of difficulty associated with streets in which what is commonly known as a ‘shared space’ design operates, and those in which all or part of the available space is designated as primarily for pedestrian use. The data on which this analysis is based is qualitative, deriving from 83 semi-structured interviews about the experiences of our participants (a substantial majority of whom identified as having a disability) in two large UK cities and their wider metropolitan areas. The types of exclusionary experience described by our participants are organised into two broad overlapping categories – first, difficulties associated with navigating environments in which kerbs have been removed; and second, difficulties associated with interacting with vehicles (including bicycles) within and at the boundaries of shared or pedestrian spaces. Our findings are in line with those of previous projects that challenge and complicate claims that ‘shared space’ design, with its removal of kerbs and controlled crossings, enhances safety and mobility for all. Further, they demonstrate that many of the concerns associated with ‘shared space’ environments are also applicable to other types of street environment intended primarily for pedestrians. As well as highlighting and raising awareness of potential types of exclusion against which action should be taken, we draw attention to measures that could reduce the risk of such exclusionary barriers arising and persisting.
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