Wheelchair users’ experience of community inclusion following the Canterbury earthquakes



This research project aims to find out about how wheelchair users have experienced community inclusion in the four years following the September 2010 Canterbury earthquake. This information can help local authorities understand the important factors for wheelchair users as communities rebuild.

Research suggests that despite an inevitable degree of uncertainty, disabled people are disproportionally vulnerable during natural disasters. A variety of social, economic, and environmental reasons are believed to contribute to this, including damaged infrastructure which restricts mobility, inaccessible shelters and temporary housing options, requiring assistance to organise supplies and equipment, and dealing with emergency personal who had little knowledge of disability needs and how to address those needs. Research also suggests that disabled people are poorly represented in emergency planning, and that there is also little collaboration with disabled people in designing emergency planning which creates emergency organisations who struggle to understand the extent or specific nature of the issues that need to be addressed.

This is a PhD project.  Johnny Bourke was a BAIL scholor for this project.


A mixed methods design was used including interviews and a survey.

Status of Research



Peer-Reviewed Journals
Bourke, J, Hay-Smith, E. J. C., Snell, D. L., & Schluter, P. J. (2017). Community inclusion of wheelchair users during the long-term recovery phase following the 2010/2011 Canterbury earthquakes. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction. Advance online publication. doi:10.1016/j.ijdrr.2017.05.004
Conference Proceedings
Bourke J, Schluter P, Hay-Smith J, Snell D. (2015). Wheelchair users’ experience of community inclusion following the Canterbury Earthquakes: a thematic analysis. Abstract accepted for oral presentation at the 2015 AFRM/NZRA Conference Wellington October 2015.

Video presentation at BAIL Peer Group, 3 November 2016

Listen to Johnny discuss the project on One In Five, 7:06 pm on 24 May 2015

Key Contact

Johnny Bourke,
BAIL Scholar, Burwood Academy of Independent Living.
Phone:  +64 3 383 6871
Mobile:  +64 21 1125596
Email: johnny.bourke@burwood.org.nz

Researchers and Collaborators

Professor Philip Schluter,
University of Canterbury.

Dr Jean Hay-Smith,
University of Otago.

Dr Deborah Snell,
University of Otago.