Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-7635

Article | Open Access

The Precarious Absence of Disability Perspectives in Planning Research

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Abstract:  One in five people in the world are said to have some type of disability. Disability is not merely individuals’ compromised capability in navigating the built environment, but rather the ‘misfit’ of capabilities with how a given living environment is organized. Planning, therefore, has a crucial role to play in responding to the needs of this significant population through changes to the built and social environment. However, discussion on planning theories and practices with a focus on persons with disability (PWD) has been limited to more specific realms of ‘design,’ and precariously absent in broader planning research. This systematic literature review aims to inform potential directions for planning scholarship by exploring the current and historic planning research investigating the needs of PWD. We compiled relevant papers from five prominent English language planning journals, some of which are long-standing (Town Planning Review, 1910–, Journal of the American Planning Association, 1935–). A very limited number of papers (n = 36) on topics related to PWD of any type have been published in the five journals throughout their existence, with even fewer focusing on the population. The subareas of planning these papers addressed include housing, transportation, land use, policy, and urban design. Many papers called for participation by PWD in the planning and decision-making processes, and some recent papers advocated for the production of evidence related to costs of creating accessible infrastructure. A critical look on some disciplinary divides and enhanced roles of planning research would be beneficial.

Keywords:  accessibility; disability; persons with disability (PWD); systematic literature review



© Mikiko Terashima, Kate Clark. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.