Virtual Accessibility Mapping, Awareness Raising, and Real-World Advocacy

Image Description: A11yVR logo with Mark Bookman out in nature wearing a pale blue suit with a teal shirt and sits in a wheelchair

Encounters with barriers to built environments, education, employment, entertainment, and healthcare in virtual reality (VR) can shape our understanding of issues faced by diverse demographics in the real world. In this presentation, Mark Bookman discusses how he uses VR in his classes at the University of Tokyo to help raise awareness about otherwise invisible obstacles for disabled individuals.

To begin, he contextualizes his use of VR by reflecting briefly on Japan’s accessibility status. Then, he illustrates how he uses VR to facilitate group participatory mapping sessions, in which his students are encouraged to exchange personal perspectives on simulated excursions.

Through case studies, Mark demonstrates how sharing experiences of inaccessibility in virtual spaces has allowed his students to rethink their relationship with real-world ecosystems. Such reimagining, he argues, can fuel various kinds of activism, advocacy, and policy reform. Ultimately, he invites attendees to join him in thinking through the implications of VR-based mapping exercises for their own social, economic, and geographic contexts.

Bio

Mark R. Bookman is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Tokyo College, the University of Tokyo. His research explores the history of disability and connected social movements in Japanese and global contexts. Mark holds Ph.D. and MA degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and a BA from Villanova University. Mark’s scholarship on disability has appeared or is forthcoming in peer-reviewed journals like The Journal of Japanese Studies, Disability Studies Quarterly, and Japan Focus: The Asia-Pacific Journal.

Mark has also written editorials and commentary for public media outlets including The Japan Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The BBC, Al Jazeera, and many others. Outside the academy, Mark also works as a disability policy consultant.

He has collaborated with government agencies and corporate entities in Japan, the United States, and Canada, as well as the International Paralympic Committee and United Nations, on projects related to inclusive education, equitable environments, and disaster risk management for diverse populations of disabled people.

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