Inclusive Public Space: Law, Universality and Difference in the Accessibility of Streets

This project considers the accessibility of public space – focusing on pedestrian access to streets. It explores law’s engagement with the exclusion which occurs when streets are designed, operated or managed so as to deny access to pedestrians whose bodies, minds or life circumstances do not ‘fit’. Such exclusion is damaging both to individuals and communities.

With a view to understanding how states and the EU can more effectively ensure that public space is inclusive, the project aims to deepen understanding of what physical features of streets are experienced as exclusionary in several countries across the world and by whom; how effectively law is used to challenge such exclusion in these countries; and how the problem is perceived and politically challenged. It also aims to foster shared concern about this form of exclusion, and to raise awareness of how law can be used to challenge it.

The methodology will be comparative, transdisciplinary and participatory in nature. It will develop innovative videovoice techniques for data gathering. It will also develop groundbreaking awareness-raising tools – such as software to simulate experiences of pedestrian exclusion – as well as digital story telling and legal orientation guides. Theoretical context and framing will be provided by an innovative blending of Martha Fineman’s universal vulnerability thesis with the social model of disability.

The project will be the first to bring a multinational sociolegal perspective to bear on this significant social justice problem. It is timely - given concerns about the move in EU countries (often supported by EU funding) toward streets in which space is shared by vehicles and pedestrians; and the ratification (including by the EU) of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which is the first such treaty to include provisions on the accessibility of public space.

The ERC Advanced Grant programme is a highly prestigious scheme that supports outstanding and established research leaders with a recognised track record of research achievements in the last ten years.