words@bld50 monthly talks


The tyranny of (in)accessibility: perspectives from Australia and Papua New Guinea

Date: Thursday 5 September, 2013 
Time: 7.00pm 
Venue: Elisabeth Murdoch Building, Victorian College of the Arts, 234 St Kilda Road, Melbourne

Proponents of democratic governance often point to the notion of the greatest good for the largest number of people as a key advantage compared to more authoritarian political systems. An important and problematic concept within democracy is that of the “Tyranny of the Majority” in which a democratic majority forces its will on the minority.  In effect, society itself becomes the tyrant by seeking to inflict its will and values on minorities: racial, religious, political and lower socio-economic groups to name a few. For people with disabilities, barriers to accessing the built environment arise when the majority de-values the needs of people within a wide spectrum of physical and sensory abilities. 

One way of countering this spatial injustice is through a broader recognition that some regulations in danger of neglect by the majority must be captured in a broader legal framework. Human rights agreements often serve this purpose, and many countries are signatories to United Nations agreements concerning disability; bound by international law to provide an accessible built environment. Yet the tyranny of the majority continues to manifest itself in both the developed and developing worlds, with access inequalities often going unrecognised.

Three speakers will share insights into the experience of space for people with disabilities, in differing theoretical, geographical and scale contexts. 


Ralph Green. Social Scientist and Director of Research, Visionary Design Development
Dennis Hogan. Director, Regulatory Development, Victorian Building Authority
Carolyn Whitzman. Associate Professor in Urban Planning, The University of Melbourne

Chaired by:

Mary Ann Jackson. Architect, Planner and Access Consultant, Visionary Design Development

Speaker bios:

Ralph Green is a Vision Scientist with Therapeutic endorsement and has a Master of Social Science (International Development). He completed his thesis on the subject of Universal Mobility and has worked as Director of Research with Visionary Design Development to develop a Universal Mobility Index.

Dennis Hogan worked in local government building control for nineteen years, following fourteen years experience as a foreman, leading hand, supervisor, draftsman and estimator after completing an apprenticeship in carpentry and joinery. Dennis has worked for the Victorian Building Commission since 2001, and is currently Director of Regulatory Development. Dennis will speak about the objectives of Livable Housing Australia: safer, more comfortable, easier to access homes for everybody, everyday, at all stages of life.

Dr. Carolyn Whitzman is Associate Professor in Urban Planning at the University of Melbourne and has an international reputation for her work on the prevention of violence. She was principal investigator of the ‘Travelling Together’ research project, and will share her experiences of partnerships for disability inclusive road development in Papua New Guinea. Carolyn is the lead editor of Building Inclusive Cities: Women's Safety and the Right to the City, author of Suburb, Slum, Urban Village: Transformations in a Toronto Neighbourhood 1875-2002 and The Handbook of Community Safety, Gender, and Violence Prevention: practical planning tools, and the co-author of Safe Cities: guidelines for planning, design, and management. Current research interests include the policy implications of planning for healthy and equitable cities in a national and international context, planning interventions to increase independent mobility for children, and the development of participatory planning tools with women, children, and people with disabilities.

Refreshments provided/gold coin donations welcome!

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