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Audit Bodies: Embodied Participation, Disability Universalism, and Accessibility in India



Abstract:  In this article we think critically about the role of the “access audit” in creating new forms of embodied participation, experiential and technical expertise, and imaginaries of what the modern Indian city should be. We analyze how disability activists make claims about the relationship between subjective bodily experiences and bodies of objective knowledge. We also explore the emergence of a professional access audit apparatus focused on technical standards. As neither volunteer nor professional access audits result in significant architectural or structural changes, we are interested in what other effects and affects these audits produce and what discursive authority claims of inaccessibility have.

This article analyzes the practice of conducting “access audits” by lay and professional disability rights activists and organizations in urban India. We argue that access audits are overly focused and that they have limited impact. In overly focusing on physical and technical access, auditors miss the importance of programmatic and policy interventions as well as the need for a more collective contentious politics. Our research illustrates that the contested field of access auditing appears to prevent a unified disability coalition from forming. In addition, it is important for auditors to think critically about the concept of “access” and ask what social, economic, and political processes are embedded within the concept.

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