Care on the Move: active travel and the everyday mobilities of children with non-visible disabilities
In a recent review, the UK Government announced ambitions to reform transport services for children with special educational needs and disability (SEND), reducing the £800 million budget for SEND transport (HM Government, 2022). These reforms aim to lessen the reliance on motorised transport and promote active travel, including walking and cycling. However, active travel remains far from accessible and inclusive for all.
This project focuses on children with non-visible disabilities. At least 1.5 million children in England have special educational needs (SEN), with the most common type of need involving a non-visible disability (GOV.UK, 2022) yet there is no academic research that has specifically examined their everyday mobility needs and experiences.
Non-visible disabilities are disabilities that are not immediately obvious to others, including mental health conditions, autism, sensory processing difficulties, and chronic pain, among others. Physical accessibility is often addressed in research and policy on disability, yet the barriers faced by children and families living with non-visible disabilities remain poorly understood.
The project examines these barriers to everyday mobility, and the work performed by children and families in response to them, through the concept of ‘care on the move.’ ‘Care on the move’ focuses on the labour of planning, managing, and modifying journeys when living with non-visible disabilities. The concept centres the care embedded in journeys themselves, in contrast to existing geographical research on care and mobility, which largely focuses on journeys as means to accessing or giving care at specific destinations. Understanding the physical, emotional, and logistical labour associated with ‘care on the move’, and the constraints within which ‘care on the move’ takes place, offers novel and tangible ways of reshaping the active travel agenda for the needs of children with non-visible disabilities and their families.
The project draws upon co-produced and playful interventions in collaboration with project partners (SENDIASS, Oxford, and SEND Families Voice, Swindon). A varied sample of families living in different areas of Oxford and Swindon will be recruited through local schools and disability support organisations. Ultimately the project aims to transform how academics, policymakers, practitioners and other stakeholders (eg. local education authorities; education and disability support services; charities; and SEND families) conceive of inclusive active travel.
For more information on this research project please contact Dr Jennie Middleton.