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Disability Arts Online

Spatial justice and privilege / 29 May 2012

My life in Tokyo is not exactly domestic, there are few meals to cook or chores to attend to. The robot cleaner takes care of bare essentials and meals are mostly eaten out. Passing a restaurant, we check for access and availability and by the time I roll in, several seats have been removed to give me a choice of seating.

I am greeted with dignity, with no sense of being too much bother, or of being patronised.

This area that I call home is quiet and comfortable, with very little evidence of poverty or social injustice. Obviously it colours my impressions of Japanese society and maybe it makes access to issues a slower process.

Around me I see Universal Design embraced with the collective acknowledgement that age will inevitably render it necessary for most people; and I see evidence of design being used in a more socially aware fashion.

In English public spaces people lacking wheels inevitably choose to use the dropped curbs and the automatic doors, yet designers of these spaces continue to ignore the implications. I live in a part of England where there seems not much attempt being made to take advantage of design possibilities to promote, or symbolically play with, notions of equality; or create spatial justice.

Running alongside Sumida, the walkway has fascinating changes of shape and texture and many resting places. One particularly attractive portion has a narrow chequerboard pathway leading to steps where it widens out before more steps lead back up to the sinuously sloping wide sweep of path rolling consistently alongside.

People lacking mobility disability inevitably choose to descend into this little pit, before coming back up to my level. I love the symbolic significance and the impression of design awareness that created this role-reversing space.

 

 

The random seeds of the flower garden

are coming full circle. In beds beside

dark soil is cleared and raked to a fine tilth.

I watch and wait with anticipation,

but one morning a regimented row

of soldier marigolds, over- bred and

barren, stand to attention as I pass.

A playful echo, Sumida's ribbon

companion is fading, and easy

gives way to the approaching season.

Heat and humidity creeping closer,

my journey is broken by orange and

yellow reminders of law and order.

 

 

Keywords: access issues,empowerment,everyday experience,poetry,tokyo