Transport: challenging disabling environments


Aldred, Rachel and Woodcock, James 2008. Transport: challenging disabling environments. Local Environment: The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability. 13 (6).
AuthorsAldred, Rachel and Woodcock, James

This article brings together the concerns of environmental and disability movements through examining the role of transport. Both movements critique current transport policy and practice. The disability movement has analysed how it marginalises the needs of disabled people, while environmentalists argue current transport trends are unsustainable and marginalise alternatives. Although these critiques operate independently and even seem opposed to each other, a common agenda can be developed through extending the social model of disability. The social model can be used to understand how car dominated transport systems can be understood as disabling populations larger than those conventionally recognised as “disabled”. The car offers the technological fix of enabling abilities, in particular speed and strength, but in practice disables in a number of ways. Urban sprawl and traffic increase barriers to participation and access for many both “able-bodied” and “disabled”, while car dominance damages social interaction and limits sensory perception. Furthermore, the car economy is a major cause of impairment through crashes and physical inactivity. Understanding these together requires integrating the social model of disability with an eco-social model of impairment. This can show how unequal forms of social organisation are embodied in people and environments to produce patterns of impairment, disability and disadvantage. Finally we suggest policies that point towards sustainable societies with increased opportunities for broader social participation. The article argues that the two movements can create and benefit from a shared vision of socially inclusive, low energy, sustainable transport.

Keywordsenvironmentalism; disability movement; transport; cycling; automobiles; green travel; accessibility
JournalLocal Environment: The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability
Journal citation13 (6)
Accepted author manuscript
Web address (URL)
Publication dates
PrintSep 2008
Publication process dates
Deposited28 Jul 2009
Additional information

Aldred, R., Woodcock, J. (2008) ‘Transport: challenging disabling environments’ Local Environment: The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability 13 (6) 485 – 496.

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