UStED CONSORTIA CORE TEAM: Alice Mathers

contact:alice.mathers@elprdu.com 
Current PhD research:
Place Perceptions of People with Learning Disabilities
 

Alice Mathers April 2005 Poster presentation:
“The Participation Of People With Learning Disabilities In The Design Process Of Urban Green Space.”

The self-advocacy of people with learning disabilities is an issue of the most current importance. In the UK two hundred and ten thousand people have severe and profound learning disabilities, whilst twenty-five in every thousand of the population in England has a mild to moderate learning disability (Department of Health, 2001). At the most restricted end of the communication spectrum, people with learning disabilities may often be seen as silent, hidden members of their communities. The development of accessible communication methods during the design process of outdoor environments will create a precedent for successful public participation in future planning policy. Recent disability research strongly argues that it is attitudes and interactions in the person-environment relationship that have allowed our ‘disablist’ society to label and segregate members of its community as disabled (Bury, 1996, Oliver, 1996). Legislation has mirrored this opinion with the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act introducing guidelines to ensure environments and buildings are accessible to all. This accessibility through better quality design cannot be seen as inclusive by simply meeting the threat of regulations. In 2002 the Urban Green Spaces Taskforce foresaw that it could only be achieved by engaging the local community throughout the design process, understanding and meeting their aspirations. The process of inclusive design from inception to operation, as described by the Disability Rights Commission, as yet remains an ideal (Disability Rights Commission, 2001). This is due to a lack of sophisticated techniques to communicate complex and subtle ideas about landscapes between professionals and the community they serve.
This research is concerned with the establishment and dissemination of techniques of visual communication to be used in the participation of people with learning disabilities in the design process of urban green space. Mencap, Britain’s leading learning disability charity, have produced a set of visual communication guidelines in the form of the document ‘Am I Making Myself Clear’ (2000). Their aim is to aid the challenges faced by people with learning disabilities in receiving the information they need and equip them with methods allowing their choice in decisions to be easily communicable to others. These guidelines have been seminal across the UK in providing a range of techniques that may be suitable. This research questions the adaptability and success of two of these techniques, the use of 1) drawings and 2) photographs, in conveying complex and conceptual ideas of landscape to facilitate participation in the design process of urban green space. The pilot study analyses the observations and progress made working with a group from the local learning disability community in Sheffield. The results of this pilot scheme will then be utilized in a nation-wide study, working with 12 learning disability groups across the country. In
the wider context, this research aims to readdress the balance in the lack of participation from all presently under-consulted sections of the lay community.


PUBLICATIONS
Mathers, A. (2008) Hidden Voices: the participation of people with learning disabilities in the experience of public open space. Doctoral Thesis, University of Sheffield, UK.

Mathers. A.R. (2006) Participation of People with Learning Disabilities in the Landscape Design Process of Urban Green Space.
view article

Mathers A (October 2004) The Participation of People with Learning Disabilities in the Landscape Design Process of Urban Green Space. Paper and conference presentation at the international Open Space: People Space conference, Edinburgh, UK. view paper

PUBLICATIONS IN PROGRESS
Mathers A., and Simkins. I.M. (2007) Approaches of inclusivity: listening to and understanding the voices of people with intellectual disabilities and young children in the planning and design process, in Urban Sustainability through Environmental Design, eds: Thwaites. K., Porta. S. and Romice. O. Book commissioned by Spon Press, London.

CONFERENCE PRESENTATIONS
Mathers A (September 2006) The participation of people with learning disabilities in the experience of public open space. Paper presenation at the DSA Conference: Disability Studies, Research and Learning, hosted by Disability Studies Association, Lancaster University, UK.

Mathers A. R. (April 2006) The participation of people with learning disabilities in the experience of public open space. Seminar presentation at: Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Conference. Department of Sociological Studies, The University of Sheffield.

Mathers A (May 2005) The Participation of People with Learning Disabilities in the Experience of Public Green Space. Poster presentation at the UK Grad Programme: Presenting Your Research to the General Public in association with Northumbria University, hosted by the University of Leeds, UK.

Mathers A (May 2005) The Participation of People with Learning Disabilities in the Landscape Design Process of Public Space. Poster presentation at EDRA 36: Design for Diversity, Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Mathers A (October 2004) The Participation of People with Learning Disabilities in the Landscape Design Process of Urban Green Space. Paper and conference presentation at the international Open Space: People Space conference, Edinburgh, UK. view paper

   
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