'Accessible Zaragoza' at Pint of Science 2018

Houston, we’ve got a problem! …when there are no maps paying attention to people with functional diversity.

Let me propose an exercise: close your eyes for a moment and imagine a person devoted to science and research. Almost certainly, you may have visualized a middle-aged man in a white robe and glasses who is doing “things” in a laboratory or in front of a computer, probably to solve a problem related to health, the environment or making a process more efficient. If I have “read your mind” it is not because you are a predictable person, but because that is (with small variations) the most frequent image about scientists. Unfortunately, this view reflects some prejudices (such as gender1 and thinking that sciences are always applied sciences2 and limited to what is usually known as “natural sciences”3) and also evidence that the tasks that a scientific person does are incomprehensible to most people and, therefore, are a complete mystery.

It is precisely to bridge this disconnect between society and science that the initiative Pint of Science was born in 2012. Ever since, it has spread from the United Kingdom to 21 countries on all continents (except Antarctica). The idea behind Pint of Science is as simple as it is effective: to convert pubs into meeting points between science and society. To this end, for three days in a row, a festival is organised in several pubs from different cities and countries in which scientists explain their work to the audience for about 15 minutes, followed by a debate watered by the omnipresent beers that populate the majority of pubs worldwide (hence its name). There is also the funny case that some of the people attending the festival are totally unaware of the existence of the festival.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, because this year I participated as a speaker in the Zaragoza edition together with my colleague and friend Miguel Sevilla-Callejo to tell about the project of which I have already written about, Accesible Zaragoza, with the talk we titled “About chairs, chairs, kerbs and traffic lights. #zaccessibility for improving the mobility of people with functional diversity” that you can see in this link (in Spanish).

Our talk was one of the three of the session titled “On retrones and satellites” that took place on Monday, May 14 at the Harlem Rock Café and in which also participated Rafael Martínez Cebolla, from the Colegio de Geógrafos de Aragón, and Raúl Gay Navarro, member of Aragonese parliament.

Rafa talked about the work that geographers do and the importance of geography to understand and explain phenomena of all kinds and that have to do with how we perceive and relate to the world and its physical environment, using an endless number of curious maps.

In his entertaining talk entitled “Nobody’s perfect: I have no arms”, Raúl recounted his personal experience in order to raise awareness of how the daily life of a person with a disability can be but, above all, in order to break taboos about disability. All of that with a great mixture of humour, rawness and tenderness.

Finally, Miguel and I explained the need for a map like the one we are developing on urban accessibility and the opportunity to do it collaboratively using OpenStreetMap not only to denounce, but to co-responsibility of citizenship and contribute to improving the autonomy of people with functional diversity.

The experience was unbeatable, both for the interesting and complementary previous talks, and for the organization of the event through the association that organizes Pint of science (thanks in particular to Carlos, Juan and Silvia for their work), but especially for the reception of the public, which lent itself to an interesting debate that lasted until the closing time of the bar.

  1. According to the report “Científicas en Cifras 2015” elaborated in 2015 by the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness, the number of women researchers was quantified, for that year, in 38% of the total number of researchers. That figure shows that women are not an exception in research, although it is true that there is still a lot of room for improvement (especially if we asess the positions that these researchers occupy, but that is out of the scope of this text) and therefore campaigns such as those that are becoming habitual to attract women towards careers of the calls STEM (Science, Technology, Enginery and Mathematics). ^
  2. Applied sciences are those that are oriented to apply scientific knowledge of one or more specialized areas of science to solve practical problems. Given their “applicability,” that is, their ability to solve very specific problems, they tend to be easier to explain and understand and, therefore, tend to receive greater attention from society, as well as more funding. In contrast to this type of science is the basic science, that is to say that scientific research that is carried out to increase knowledge, without having an immediate practical purpose. Since this type of research does not offer immediate (social, economic …) benefits, it is usually considered unnecessary because it is a mere exercise in curiosity. The reality, however, is that the benefits of this type of research are obtained in the longer term, since it is what allows the creation of new knowledge on which applied science can now be based. ^
  3. It is often forgotten that, in addition to natural sciences, there are social sciences, aimed at studying society and human behavior, which include disciplines as varied as sociology, anthropology, political science, geography, history .. and even those related to language such as linguistics (which often do not relate at all to research), amongst others. ^

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Carlos Cámara-Menoyo
Architect. PhD. Lecturer. Life-long Learner. Transdisciplinary.

I love learning, teaching and researching, as well as sharing and visualizing data, specially with maps. I have a technical and social background and my multiple research interests are centered around the commodifications between cities, technology and society within informationalism and free culture paradigm. So far, I have applied that approach on the topic of social and spatial inequities.


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