Marginalised Bodies, Liminal Spaces

Date/Time: 13/05/2014 from 6:00 pm - 8:30 pm

The modernist dream of a rationalized city depended on the production of mappable public space and free circulation. But urban growth and regulation required rapid transit systems, an apparatus of surveillance, and the privatization of amenities. This has marginalised groups whose style of movement about the city fails to conform to norms of speed and efficiency. This seminar looks at the theory and practice of engagement with issues of disability and the fight for access to the city.

  • Rob Imrie Off the Map ? Disabling Designs, Impaired Vision and the Illegible City
  • Andy Minnion & Sue Ledger The Enabling City: Multimedia Mapping for Self-Advocacy and Social Inclusion

Chair : Andrew Calcutt

Venue : University of East London Royal Docks Campus (Room G18) Nearest station: DLR Cyprus


Rob Imrie Department of Sociology Goldsmiths University of London

Off the map? Disabling designs, impaired vision and the illegible city

The legibility of urban environments depends on signs, cues, and signals, including visual, tactile, and auditory media, to provide people with means of orientation without need for additional help or assistance by third parties. However, in the drive to commercialise and aestheticise urban environments, many street environments in British cities are rendering places illegible and difficult to navigate or make sense of, particularly for those with vision impairments and different types of cognitive impairment. It may be argued that a new form of urban (dis) order is emerging as part of faddish approaches to the design of streetscapes. Drawing on research of shared space environments in London and the south east of England, the presentation considers how far disabling design, including design that dis-orientates, is part of a new wave of urban renewal, and with implications for the lived, everyday, experiences of people with vision impairment. Such (shared) spaces, it is argued, are part of new spaces of exclusion and renders them, for many vision impaired people, as ‘places off the map’.

Andy Minnion and Sue Ledger

Multimedia mapping for self advocacy and social inclusion

Andy and Sue have both been working with people with learning disabilities using photography and mapping to co-create new personal maps of local communities that highlight the lives and experiences of people often excluded from their neighbourhoods. Two action research projects will be shared that use media practice for self-advocacy with people who find conventional communication difficult and whose connections to their local landscapes are rich but their stories untold. Sue, from the Social History of Learning Disability Research Group at The Open University, will showcase the ‘Staying Local Project’, which maps lost histories of people with high support needs in London, using mobile interviews, life journey mapping and photography.
Andy, from the Rix Centre for innovation and learning disability at UEL, will share ‘easy-build wiki websites’ made by East Londoners with learning disabilities. The Rix Centre’s co-production projects create accessible and user-centred rich media wikis and portals to chart local opportunities for disabled people, alongside individual strategies for community participation.
Both projects are creating new local topologies from the local knowledge and experiences of people with learning disabilities and using multimedia advocacy to build social inclusion and challenge the configuration of services and support.


Rob Imrie is Professor of geography at Goldsmith’s College and was previously Professor of Geography at Kings College London and at Royal Holloway University of London, prior to that. In 2004, Rob was awarded the ‘Back Award’ by the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers), in recognition of ‘contributions to research on national and local policies in urban development and local governance’, June 14th. Between 2003 and 2007, Rob was visiting professor, Department of Geography, University of Strathclyde. He has since held visiting professorships in the Urban Research Centre, University of Western Sydney (2008), and the Department of Applied Social Studies, University of Cork (2009). He is a former member of: the Department of Communites and Local Government’s (DCLG) Working Party advising on changes to Part M of the Building Regulations; the DCLG’s Housing Research Network, with responsibility to develop links between housing research and policy; and, the Lifetime Homes Group, Joseph Rowntree Foundation. He is an editorial board member of the ‘Access Journal’.

Sue Ledger been a member of the Social History of Learning Disability Research Group at The Open University since 2001. Sue is interested in life history research, oral history, the use of life story work within services and improving opportunities for local support for people with learning disabilities. The Staying Local Project was the focus of Sue’s PhD research that explored experiences of local support for people with learning disabilities from inner London. This collaborative work also provided a way to successfully challenge Local Authority’s practices of re-locating people with high support needs far away from the places where they grew up.

Andy Minnion is Director of the Rix Centre, which researches and develops access and use of social media and the Web for people with intellectual disabilities. He has a background in documentary and community media practice and has led action research, knowledge exchange project work and teaching and learning from the Centre ‘s base at the University of East London since 2001. His projects combine the co-development of software systems, implementation design and the evaluation of impact in working partnership with learning disability communities. Andy was awarded an MBE for ‘Services to the Education of People with Special Needs’ in 2012.

Venue: UEL Docklands Campus

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