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Title:Dis/abling mobilities: urban-rural experiences of impairment & well-being
Author(s):Wong, Sandy
Director of Research:McLafferty, Sara
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):McLafferty, Sara
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Cidell, Julie; Strauser, David; Wilson, David
Department / Program:Geography & Geographic InfoSci
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Spatial analysis
Geographic information system (GIS)
Medicalization of welfare
Supplemental Security Income (SS)
Visual impairment
Activity space
Abstract:This dissertation is comprised of three papers that, as a unit, study the geographic patterns and processes that influence the well-being and mobility of people with disabilities in the U.S. The first paper investigates the relationship between welfare reform and the geographies of disability across the U.S. Using GIS and statistical methods to analyze aggregated county-level data, I examine enrollment trends in the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program in 2000 and 2010, two points in time in the post-1996 welfare reform period. I produce empirical evidence to support the medicalization of welfare, in which access to welfare-related benefits is increasingly contingent on a medical diagnosis of disability. I also uncover SSI hot spots in parts of the southeast, Appalachia, and northern California, and these hot spots are largely rural. The findings suggest that political and economic conditions specific to these rural localities are driving spatial concentrations of disability, poverty, and un(der)employment. The second and third papers investigate the individual experiences of residents in the San Francisco Bay Area who have vision loss as they navigate the urban built environment. In the second paper, I utilize a qualitative space-time framework to analyze interview transcripts, seeking to understand how the combined effects of space and time impact the everyday mobilities of individuals who are visually impaired (VI). I find that people who are VI negotiate significant space-time constraints that are conditional on their access to transportation, assistive technology, and mobile devices. The temporal dimension of mobility is especially notable, as the timing of transit schedules, work hours, and social events shapes when and where people can travel and what activities they can participate in. In the third paper, I evaluate the applicability of well-established activity space measures for representing the mobilities of people who are visually impaired. First, I employ GIS to map and visualize the activity spaces of participants based on three measures: standard deviational ellipse, network buffer, and potential path area. Then, I use statistical methods to compare the area sizes of these three types of activity spaces. Finally, I compare the activity space results to a qualitative analysis of individuals’ travel behaviors and their perceptions about the accessibility of their environments. A comparison of results from both quantitative and qualitative methods reveals that popular activity space measures have significant shortcomings for summarizing the daily travels of individuals who are VI. Widely-used activity space models assume that individual accessibility depends only on distance and time from locations and travel routes, overlooking other factors that cause many urban and suburban environments to be inaccessible to individuals with vision loss. This dissertation contributes to the existing disability literature by foregrounding the influence of geographic context in mobility and access, applying and evaluating spatial analytic techniques for understanding the geographies of disability, and studying the structural and individual dynamics affecting welfare enrollment, personal well-being, and mobility. The findings suggest a need for developing policies specific to people with disabilities that: (1) improve their employment outcomes to reduce their need for welfare assistance and (2) expand their transportation options to increase their daily mobilities and access to resources. Future research directions include in-depth case studies to better understand how the medicalization of welfare is experienced in rural localities, activity space modeling that combines quantitative and qualitative methods, and mapping (in)accessible spaces to better address the spatial obstacles faced by people with disabilities.
Issue Date:2017-07-05
Rights Information:Copyright 2017 Sandy Wong
Date Available in IDEALS:2017-09-29
Date Deposited:2017-08

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