Abstract: Walking In Someone Else’s Shoes - Heddon & Porter

Whereto: Porter & Heddon

Walking In Someone Else’s Shoes
Professor Deirdre Heddon, University of Glasgow
Dr Sue Porter, University of Bristol

The Walking Interconnections: Performing Conversations of Sustainability AHRC Connected Communities funded research project, brought disabled people and sustainability practitioners together to share walking encounters in public places. Through mapping, talking, walking and reflecting together they entered each other's life-world's, and their experiences are caught in photographs, maps and a sound play crafted by Dee Heddon from the recorded conversations of the walkers.

Disabled people most often find themselves positioned as only vulnerable, but recent research (Abbot and Porter, 2013) has led us to propose that there may be a 'wisdom' (Leipoldt, 2006) drawn from lived experience, which disabled people can contribute to the resilience and sustainability debates. Leipoldt identifies the wisdom he believes can be drawn from the disability experience, which can be summarised as: making real choices, moving beyond the rhetoric of rights to value individual choice; acknowledging limits, knowing what to accept and what is open to change; skilfully 'riding the wave', rather than seeking to control it; bearing up through committed relationships, with oneself, others and the environment; and, creativity in living, and personal transformation.

The Walking Interconnections project explored this 'wisdom', resilience and the potential contribution to learning for a sustainable society, by developing dialogues between disabled people and sustainability practitioners. It used walking, narrative and arts-based methods to develop dialogues between these two traditionally separated communities. Through these dialogues it seeks to understand more about different forms of resilience, and to question the valuing of self-reliance over positive interdependencies, in support of the transition to a sustainable society.

In this paper we will explore the ideas underpinning the Walking Interconnections research, and discuss findings and the impact the project is having on emergency planning and the debate about shared public spaces.


Dee Heddon is professor of Contemporary Performance (Theatre, Film and Television Studies) at the University of Glasgow, where she is currently engaged in two areas of research: walking and performance, and performance and forests.

Sue Porter is a research fellow at the University of Bristol. Her research interests include disability identity, embodiment, sustainability, and place. She uses arts-based and narrative approaches in her participatory research practice.