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A student shows cities’ disabilities in her thesis

Lenka Marečková wants her thesis to make the voice of the disabled more audible. 

Studentka sociologie Lenka Marečková.

Many ask the question in writing their theses: And will there be any use of it at all? It seems there will for the thesis by Lenka Marečková, who is now completing her sociology studies at the Faculty of Social Studies. She described what barriers are faced by in Brno by the disabled even nowadays. Her work could be a basis for improving things.

Lenka herself does not have physical problem but she worked as an assistant in the Teiresias Support Centre for Students with Special Needs for several years while studying. “Specifically, it was at the department of physical disabilities, so I took care mostly about people in wheelchairs and people using crutches," she describes.

She got the job through a secondary school classmate, who is also a wheelchair user. While it may be difficult for some to see the everyday reality of a disabled person, Lenka had already known a number of aspects of their lives thanks to him, so work for Teiresias was natural for her.

The idea to write a thesis, which is eventually called Physical disability and space: autoethnography in a disabling city, arose in parallel to her work. Individual experiences from work were complemented by courses she attended at the faculty, mainly with the sociology of the city.

“I was always in field when working, between the school and clients' homes. I gained a lot of experience and everything suddenly started connecting with school," the almost-graduate describes.

The thesis shows that although many improvements for the disabled have been made in the city over the past several years, they are still not sufficient. “The situation is often ambivalent. Yes, we do have some wheelchair-accessible trams and some wheelchair-accessible stops but also many non-compliant ones. A wheelchair user must always plan when to go and where to get off or get on and lives under permanent pressure," Lenka explains.

She adds that she wants her thesis to make the voice of the disabled more audible. In her experience, their view is often forgotten among all the expert solutions. “It then makes disabled persons do various things, for example dangerous manoeuvres, which the drivers of public transport don't like very much. But for a wheelchair user it's often really not a choice."

The student works with the theory of a disabling city in her thesis. Before she went to defend her thesis in front of an academic commission, she presented it at a student anthropological conference, which took place at the Faculty of Social Studies in May and aimed at showing how practical outcomes of the humanities can be. Lenka would also like to further use her thesis. But for now she has postponed thinking of a specific plan. “You don't give much thought to this before the state exam," she smiles.