Accessibility and The Crowded Sidewalk: Micromobility's Impact on Public Space


Over the past several years, micromobility devices—small-scale, networked vehicles used to travel short distances—have begun to pervade cities, bringing promises of sustainable transportation and decreased congestion. Though proponents herald their role in offering lightweight solutions to disconnected transit, smart scooters and autonomous delivery robots increasingly occupy pedestrian pathways, reanimating tensions around the right to public space. Drawing on interviews with disabled activists, government officials, and commercial representatives, we chart how devices and policies co-evolve to fulfill municipal sustainability goals, while creating obstacles for people with disabilities whose activism has long resisted inaccessible infrastructure. We reflect on efforts to redistribute space, institute tech governance, and offer accountability to those who involuntarily encounter interventions on the ground. In studying micromobility within spatial and political context, we call for the HCI community to consider how innovation transforms as it moves out from centers of development toward peripheries of design consideration.

DIS ‘21: Designing Interactive Systems Conference 2021
Emily E. Ackerman
Emily E. Ackerman
Ph.D. Candidate

Sixth year Ph.D candidate in Chemical Engineering looking toward a future professorship with special interest in the advancement of underrepresented groups