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What if you didn’t feel welcome in your own city?

What if you didn’t feel comfortable, or even safe, going into stores or taking transit? What if, wherever you went, you felt like people were staring at you? For many of us, that kind of alienation is hard to imagine, but for many people with intellectual disabilities, it’s part of everyday life.

The ‘My Life in the City’ project emerged out of the work of Professor Ann Fudge Schormans who realized there was a severe lack of research into what adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) do on a day-to-day basis in the city in which they live. Adults with IDD have been historically stigmatized and excluded from community life and their worth and citizenship contested and fragile. Their engagement with city space can be seen as a measure of their social inclusion. There has been considerable writing on disability and space in geography and disability studies focused on physical and psychiatric disabilities, however, limited research into the experiences of space and place for adults with IDD. Also lacking from the research is the voices of adults with IDD. This project celebrates that they are experts of their own lived experience, and are active co-researchers in the research experience.  

Ann, together with a group of co-researchers and 12 participants who identified with an IDD worked together to explore their lived experiences in the city of Toronto through qualitative interviews and innovative techniques such as GPS mapping technology, and arts-based methodology. As a collaboration between social work, disability studies, and Geography, it bridges arts-based methodologies with social sciences and more objectively measures space and uses of space.