Project run by St Anne’s Fellow, Dr Jennie Middleton, awarded significant ESRC grant to research mobility support for childhood disability

New ESRC-funding will see Oxford researchers examine how active travel can be more inclusive of 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). 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.

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, and very little attention has been given to SEND children’s everyday mobility needs and experiences.

This new project brings together expertise in urban geography, mobility studies, and transport geography from Oxford’s Transport Studies Unit, based within the School of Geography and the Environment, and builds on the team’s internationally recognised work on active travel, disabled mobilities, care and transport infrastructures.

Jennie Middleton, Associate Professor in Human Geography, Tutorial Fellow at St Anne’s College and Principal Investigator of the research, said: “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. This project examines these barriers to everyday mobility, and the work performed by children and families in response to them.”

Read more here.