Next week I will be giving a Visiting Researcher seminar at the ICS-ULisboa
Give Us an Institute and We Will Raise an Accessible Barcelona
12 October 2016 14.30h – 16.30h
Sala 2, ICS-ULisboa
This presentation reports on ethnographic and archival work undertaken in 2014 and 2016 at a very small and peripheral institute, part of Barcelona’s City Hall, the Institut Municipal de Persones amb Discapacitat (IMPD): enforcing and supervising the city-wide planning and implementation of accessible urban and transport infrastructures. Allegedly, the IMPD has been crucial for Barcelona’s huge transformation into one of the most accessible cities in the world. Officially founded in 1990–merging disability-specific management units (patronats) that emerged after the disability rights struggles in the late 1970s–this institute’s main objective has been that of offering a way for disabled people to take part in the city’s planning. Indeed, the IMPD’s council is jointly managed by civil servants–mostly social workers–and disabled people’s representatives elected every 4 years. But how could such a small entity have a lasting impact on a huge and extremely complex municipal structure? And how, in doing so, could it grant the ‘material expression’ of accessibility rights for its most vulnerable citizens?
In this presentation I will seek to explain this paying particular attention to the ‘documentary interfaces’ put together to articulate interesting relationships between the technicians and the accessibility advocates. To be more specific, not only will I seek to report on (a) on the role of topic-specific ‘commissions of participation’, where experiential and embodied knowledge from the disabled is documented and brought together to sensitize the architects and engineers in charge of implementing wider municipal projects; but also on other ‘smaller interventions’, such as: (b) its regular publications, sensitization campaigns and outreach leaflets; and (c) the work of its technicians, constantly supervising and writing reports on the designs, materials, and implementation of different urban accessibility projects. Building from this, I seek to foreground the IMPD as a ‘sensitizing device’, affecting in different modes the wider implementation of an ‘accessibility culture’ within the City Hall’s urban professionals’ planning and interventions. A fragile and fallible diplomatic task of affecting peripherally the multifarious sociomaterial articulation of accessibility arrangements, where many compromises have to be made with the goal of making Barcelona a city ‘for all’.