Enabling participation for dis/abled children and young people

Dis/abled children and young people face substantial barriers to access and inclusion, with major implications for health and wellbeing. Social interaction and recreational participation are essential for healthy development, yet the built environment and social attitudes can undermine mobility and inclusion in daily life. In collaboration with a dis/abled youth advisory group and NGOs in the dis/ability sector we have co-researched with young people with mobility, vision and hearing impairments and their parent/caregivers to understand their experiences of the public realm. In line with the New Zealand Disability Strategy definition of disability as “the process which happens when one group of people create barriers by designing a world … taking no account of the impairments of others”, we have asked: ‘how do various built, amenity and social environments constrain or facilitate access, mobility and social participation’?

This three-year multi-methods research funded by the Health Research Council (2015-2018) was carried out across Auckland.

To illustrate the effects of ableism on the wellbeing of disabled young people SHORE & Whariki researchers have collaborated with cartoonist Toby Morris. Link to Toby’s cartoon here.


 Pilot study for Enabling Participation of Dis/abled Children and Young People.

A pilot study was conducted before commencing our Enabling Participation of Dis/abled Children and Young People research to trial with dis/abled children modified methods used in our previous Kids in the City research (HRC 10/497). How could our methods best facilitate the participation of children with mobility, vision and hearing impairments in the research? Jaden Movold (then 10 years old) was one of our pilot participants.  For seven days he wore a GPS unit and accelerometer and kept a travel diary to record where he went, how he got there, and who he went with. We were interested in understanding how environmental features – physical and social – affected his ability to participate in everyday activities outside of home and school. Jaden was involved in a wide range of physical activities right across the city, including swimming and wheelchair basketball. During our ‘go along’ interview he took us to Takapuna Beach, one of his favourite summer places. Negotiating soft sand in a wheel chair is almost impossible, and Jaden would like to see wooden walkways (or similar) so people in wheelchairs can access beaches and get to the water.  Stairs are also a problem, preventing access to many other public places: there should always be a ramp as well as stairs, he says.

Contact researcher: Professor Karen Witten