Publication details

Towards non-ableist geographies of visual impairment: The methodological difficulties in the research of visually impaired people’s urban experience



Year of publication 2022
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Science

Description Based on a research project studying the experience of people with visual impairment within the urban milieu in the Czech Republic, the conference contribution discusses the limits of human geographical methodologies. It draws on actor-network theory, assuming that science does not describe reality but produces it. A research design utilizing ableist methodologies can produce ableist realities. The discipline of human geography is usually very much based on the visual perception of the world which makes certain difficulties for studying the spatial experience of people with visual impairment. Therefore, it was in our case necessary to adjust the methods so that they could mediate this experience to the geographical community without reproducing ableism. The researchers faced multiple dilemmas: What questions to ask? How to answer them? What can and cannot be said about the results? Consequently, how to research experience that differs from that of the researchers who are able-bodied? What kind of knowledge do they produce? An approach that would demonstrate the spatial experience as multiple, dynamic, and mutually constructed has been required – an approach that could offer a range of potentially productive methods and research questions, as well as bring critically reflected results. Poststructuralist approach, mainly Deleuze-Guattarian philosophy, was chosen, and two methods were used: interviews and go along interviews that had to be adjusted to be able to explore spatial experience of people with visual impairment. Despite various preparations of these methods, new difficulties kept emerging, which had to be addressed if we did not want to reproduce ableist scientific knowledge. From the beginning of data collecting, there was an agreement to work in teams with slightly different roles of each of the researchers, which was significant especially during go-along interviews. In some cases, researchers’ and participants’ anticipations differed, which led to unexpected and even potentially dangerous situations. These were not caused only by the differences between scientific and lay communities but also between able-bodied and disabled personal experience with urban space. Researchers were sometimes assigned to the assistants’ roles, and the new position of doing research together required further negotiations and opened various ethical questions.

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