Mariela Gaete Reyes
Department of Geography
King's College London
Understanding access through the embodied mobility of women wheelchair users
Professor Rob Imrie
Chilean National Scholarship Program for Graduate Studies
Disabled people’s mobility, movement and access into and around the built environment is often constrained by physical and socio-attitudinal barriers. In part, this is the result of law and legal principles tending to conceive of access as a physical and technical matter, but also the result of pejorative social and cultural values that devalue disabled people and their needs. The thesis develops an approach to, and understanding of, access that seeks to destabilise the commonsense conception of it as a physical matter than can be ameliorated by recourse to technical and management solutions. Instead, I seek to incorporate social, psycho-emotional and corporeal dimensions in developing a broader conception of disability and access. The study looks at the different patterns of daily mobility and movement of women relying on wheelchair use in different urban settings in England. It explores issues relating to disabled people’s access needs as well as the contexts within which their mobility is shaped.
The research is contributing to the understanding of the interrelationships between technology and impairment, how diverse geographies of mobility are constructed within the home and the wider built environment, and the strategies of resistance deployed by disabled people to ensure some level of access to urban spaces and places. The fieldwork consisted, primarily, of qualitative work conducted with twelve women wheelchair users that included a series of in-depth and semi structured interviews, and participant observation, to understand the challenges the built environment presents to their movement and mobility, how they seek to overcome those challenges, and what ought to be done to make the environment more conducive to independent mobility.
Mariela was born in Santiago de Chile and grew up in Bogotá, Colombia. She holds a Bachelor of Architecture (BArch) Professional Degree from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia. After finishing her studies she worked as an architect for a couple of years in Bogotá. She went on to gain a MSc in Urban Development (Two votes of distinction) from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile where she completed a dissertation on the physical and socio-attitudinal barriers, which limit the inclusion and equality of opportunities for children using wheelchairs in Santiago de Chile. Due to her interest in understanding the access needs of disabled people, Mariela took training and developed several professional activities related to accessibility while she was researching for her MSc dissertation. She worked one year as a research assistant for Professor Oscar Figueroa in the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and worked as a lecturer for 6 and half years in the School of Construction and the School of Design in the Professional Institute DUOC UC in Santiago. Mariela started her PhD at King’s College London in 2006 and has recently submitted her thesis.
Gaete Reyes, M. and Imrie, R., (2009), Universal Design, in Burch, Susan, (ed.), Encyclopedia of American Disability History, 3 Vols. New York: Facts on File.
Gaete-Reyes, M (submitted), review of Disabled People and Housing: Choices, Opportunities and Barriers. By Laura Hemingway, People, Place and Policy.
Gaete‐Reyes, M. (2009), review of The Ethics of Mobilities: Rethinking Place, Exclusion, Freedom and Environment. Edited by Sigurd Bergmann and Tore Sager, Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, 36-5, 949-950.
Gaete‐Reyes, M. (2008), review of Designing Sustainable Cities in the Developing World. Edited by Roger Zetter and Georgia Butina Watson, Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography, 29, 2, 239‐241.
Gaete Reyes, M., Ormerod M., and Newton, R., (2005). Constructing a Conceptual Model to achieve inclusive urban public spaces for Manchester: An initial Overview. Proceedings of the Second Scottish Conference for postgraduate researchers of the Built & Natural Environment (PRoBE), 16th-17th November 2005, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, pp 77-86.
Gaete Reyes, M., (2002). Physical and Socio-attitudinal Barriers, which Limit the Inclusion and Equality of Opportunities for Children using Wheelchairs in Santiago de Chile. Thesis to obtain the Master´s Degree in Urban Development. Instituto de Estudios Urbanos y Territoriales. Facultad de Arquitectura, Diseño y Estudios Urbanos Pontificia. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile.
Gaete Reyes, M. (2000). ‘Physical Accessibility Diagnosis of the Mirador Interactive Museum (MIM)’, and proposals to improve it. Report, FONADIS-MIM. Santiago de Chile.
Conference papers and guest lecture presentations
Gaete Reyes, M., (2011) ‘Disability and the meaning of the home’ at the ‘Nursing Homes of the Future’. Nohr-Con Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark, 22nd-24th November.
Imrie, R., and Gaete Reyes, M., (2009, 2008, 2007) ‘Liveability and the city: the case of disabling cities’ in the course 'Cities: Explorations in Urban Geography’ to the 2nd year undergraduate Geography students, at King’s College London, University of London, UK, 2nd March.
Gaete Reyes, M., (2008) ‘The mobility and movement of women wheelchair users and the relationship between the body and technology at the Mobility, the city and STS´ workshop. Technical University of Denmark DTU, Copenhagen, Denmark, 20th‐21st November.
Gaete Reyes, M., (2008) The impaired body, the technology of the wheelchair and the environment at the ‘4th International Disability Studies Conference. Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK, 2nd‐4th September.
Gaete Reyes, M., (2008). The meaning of the home and the impaired body at the ‘Disability Research Forum’ (DRF). Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK, 26th February. The forum was organised by Dr Rebecca Mallett.
Gaete Reyes, M., and Imrie, R., (2007) ‘Limb Objects’ and the Touchiness of Disability’ at the ESRC workshop ‘The Smells, Sights, Sounds, Textures and Tastes of Socio-Technical Transitions’. The workshop was organised by Professor Simon Marvin, SURF, University of Salford, UK, 19th October.
Imrie, R., and Gaete Reyes, M., (2007) ‘Accessible Housing’, MSc International Housing Studies, UCL, University of London, London, UK, March.
Gaete Reyes, M., (2003). ‘Situation of Children Using Wheelchairs in Santiago' at the ‘Universal Accessibility International Conference: Elimination of Architectural, Urban and Design Barriers, Universidad Católica Cardenal Silva Henriquez, Santiago de Chile, 4th-6th August.
Gaete Reyes, M., (2001) ‘Elimination of Physical Barriers, towards an accessible City’ at Instituto Profesional DUOC UC, Santiago de Chile.
Gaete Reyes, M., (2000) ‘Training for the Assistants of the Mirador Interactive Museum (MIM) in the Attention of People with Physical Impairments’ at workshop organised by FONADIS-MIM. Santiago de Chile, December.