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A systematic review of disability’s treatment in the active school travel and children’s independent mobility literatures

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While various forms of social difference (e.g. gender, age, race/ethnicity, and class) have been engaged in the active school travel (AST) and children’s independent mobility (CIM) literatures, one form has gone largely unconsidered: disability. Disregard for disability within these literatures is troubling, as it leaves children’s experiences of disability associated with independent mobility and school travel unquestioned, which in turn helps to allow their experiences of exclusion to persist. This paper presents a systematic review of the AST and CIM literatures that was undertaken with a view to providing insight into three questions. (1) To what extent is disability considered in the literatures in comparison to other forms of social difference? (2) How is disability engaged? (3) How could disability be approached differently such that experiences of children (and their households) living with disability are better accounted for moving forward (e.g. provided with equitable travel/mobility options)? Following a detailed consideration of the systematic review process, this paper presents figures and tables showing the extent to which disability has been considered in the two literatures in relation to other forms of social difference. To show how transport scholars and others are engaging disability, 29 studies were identified for in-depth, qualitative review. These studies are summarized and then discussed in relation to their geographic focus, the forms of disability they considered, their treatment of children’s perspective and agency, and the disability perspectives they employed. It is suggested that disability and its relationships with other forms of social difference, as well as the largely unquestioned normalcy of children’s disability experiences, warrant further inquiry within the AST and CIM literatures. We propose that drawing upon a critical ableist studies perspective may be useful for any such inquiry due to its focus on ableism and normalcy, as well as its recognition of the complex intersectionality of disability experiences.
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Keywords: Children’s transportation; active school travel; children’s independent mobility; critical ableist studies; disability; systematic review

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography and Planning, University of Toronto, ON, Toronto, Canada 2: Department of Geography, University of Toronto Mississauga, Mississauga, ON, Canada

Publication date: May 4, 2018

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