Accessibility Inequality: A Study of Fair Park and Plano

Accessibility Inequality by Nicholas Provenghi on Scribd

The two themes that we kept in mind while conducting a literature review for this project were income stratification and stratification based on disability. Between those, we found some threads that connected the literature we read while researching. Many of these were similar to the main concepts that we focused on in class during the relevant chapters, such as the connections between life chances and social class.
Something unique that was specifically touched on by Jenkins (pp. 559-560), but present upon further inspection in the other papers that discussed disabilities, was that there is an intersectional component to disability as a status and social class. While that might seem self-explanatory, the statistics provided, while pertaining to the 1980s United Kingdom, demonstrate patterns that linger in the United States to this day; disabled children are more frequently lower class than upper class; only 23% of “disabled young people” were from “non-manual social classes,” whereas 41% of the general population were from those same classes (Jenkins, 1991 p. 566). What can then happen is something like what Phillips described in her ethnographic study of 33 people with disabilities, where disabled people form social cliques because of similar class and status. The study took place in a university town in the Midwest; participants were overwhelmingly Caucasian and highly educated. Their ages ranged from 21 to “early-sixties,” and many were employed, receiving benefits, or students (Phillips, 1990, p. 850). This study is definitely useful in getting qualitative data directly from the population being observed, but it doesn’t align with the expected class pattern for disabled people.

Also in Phillips’ study, she described three of the common ideas that American society in the 1980s held toward disabled people, one of which was the “[attribution]” of disabled people to stay amongst themselves (Phillips, 1990, p. 850). However, this wasn’t the focus of the study; it centered on the experiences that disabled people had with society as a whole, specifically on the norms in society and media that perpetuated harmful beliefs about disabled people. Many of the accounts were disheartening in how dehumanized people were made to feel on the basis of their disabilities. One account that stuck out was that of a woman who reported that her university tried to demean and coddle her by denying her practical experience that would help her be hired in her field. Other able-bodied people corroborated her story that she was given far less work than her peers (Phillips, 1990, p. 854).

Another commonality of disabilities papers was the presence of greater cultural forces that drove the mistreatment of disabled people. Jenkins looked at how disabled people were either underemployed or permanently unemployed in the United Kingdom (1991, p. 565), which could certainly be attributed to the cultural stigma that Phillips observed (while the United States and United Kingdom are different, the cultures are still similar). Some of the cultural phenomena that Phillips described were the effectiveness with which the media perpetuated harmful language and images (1990, p. 855); one subject, in particular, pointed to her misrepresentation in a newspaper article as “suffering, victimized, [and] afflicted” (Phillips, 1990, p. 851), specifically after being asked to not be portrayed as such. Phillips cited that kind of language and behavior as something that “penetrate[d] the cultural consciousness, predicting social interactions [between disabled and able-bodied people]” (1990, p. 851). The greater idea that drove this was what Phillips called the “damaged goods” (1990, p. 850) mindset, where disabled people were spoken of like objects and reduced to their disability.

Shifting gears to something equally depressing, income stratification. For this topic, we decided to look at one broad paper that discussed some themes and a study into funding across a specific city. In the editorial, Silver discusses trends currently present in inequality across urban areas, such as the trend of the richest ZIP Codes becoming more and more insulated from the rest of their regions (2012, p. 343). This is something that we could extrapolate to Plano’s 75093 ZIP Code, which is one of the wealthiest in the Metroplex. Rather than ignore its residents, investing in things that the population could use like good public transit and accessible infrastructure can make Plano a little more insulated from the rest of the area.

The study out of Los Angeles by Wolch, Wilson, and Fehrenbach was really interesting, in terms of the way they looked at how parks were distributed across the city. To illustrate the disparity, we made some crude maps that illustrated the distributions of parks in Dallas to make their findings relevant to us. By looking at that funding, we can get some kind of idea for how large cities in the United States allocate funds according to neighborhood; funds that go toward all aspects of life, including accessibility. A key caveat to mention is that the researchers noted that newer, more planned, suburbs have an advantage when it comes to parks; because they usually expand onto previously-unused land, accounting for parkland is easy. The planning can start with a blank slate rather than working to accommodate something that might already exist (Wolch et. al, 2005, p. 9). Here in the Metroplex, we can see this in when comparing the newer, more planned, developments of Plano to those in Dallas, which skew older; the people installing the equipment down there had to be more conscientious of what was already there.
Through this research, we were able to take a more informed look at the areas of Dallas and Plano that we observed in our project, by understanding more about the two kinds of stratification we set out to document, income and disability.