Passing through other people's spaces : disabled women, geography and work
The historical social positioning and exclusion experienced by disabled people, particularly disabled women in Western society, is profound. Traditional disability research methods and theoretical approaches are built from a combination of fear and ignorance, reflecting myths and misconceptions about the 'abnormality' and 'dysfunction' of disability. People with disabilities remain largely invisible and 'out of place'. Many disability researchers adopt a 'colonial' perspective toward disability and arguably fail to engage with disabled people in a substantive manner other than as a particular type of limitation or possible candidate for correction. Quantitative disability data provides a rudimentary reference source from which a medicalised one-dimensional profile of disability has developed, but information gaps and methodological weaknesses with such data can readily be identified. This thesis is hence a qualitative critical disability survey examining the timing and spacing realities of lives for women with physical disabilities. The social context of disability in public/private space is thereby examined for the perspectives of disabled women. The fluidity of embodied geographies, disability, and impairment are explored, moving well beyond individual incapacity in the workplace and looking at wider social perceptions and attitudes. Through a series of in-depth interviews developed in conjunction with the involving twenty women in Scotland and twenty in Canada, the interconnections of education, community and workspaces are explored in relation to disability policies. The 'voices' of women in disabilities remain at the forefront, and what emerges are rich contextual profiles of women making spaces on their own terms, allowing new insights into proactive policy interventions.