Vera Kubenz

The Politics of Parking: Disabled people’s encounters with strangers in accessible parking spaces

Supervisors: Dr Harriet Clarke, Dr Kayleigh Garthwaite, Dr Ash Stokoe

Vera KubenzMy research examines disabled people’s interactions with strangers in public while using accessible parking spaces. As well as mapping the kinds of interactions that take place in these spaces, I explore what strategies disabled people may employ to navigate (or avoid) these encounters and their effect on disabled people’s emotions and self-identity.

Building on the concept of psycho-emotional disablism (Reeve 2008; Thomas, 1999), I employ poststructuralist approaches to explore accessible parking bays as spaces of biopower and identify the emotional labour that goes into ‘performing’ disability, whilst critically questioning binaries such as in/visibility and who is perceived as a ‘legitimate’ disabled person. In addition, I also explore the media representations of accessible parking and how these may influence the encounters that take place. The hypervisibility of Blue Badge parking bays provides an ideal location to investigate this phenomenon, particularly given the recent expansion of the scheme to a range of ‘invisible’ impairments.

This research will contribute to a more nuanced understanding of the importance of interpersonal encounters to experiences of disability and will also have relevance for policy in terms of whether the Blue Badge scheme is fit for purpose in truly removing barriers.


I am a part-time PhD student as well as having worked for the University for over a decade in both research and research management roles. I am also a committed disability activist and recognise the importance of lived experience in my work.


  • MA Sociology (University of Warwick)
  • BA Journalism and Media (Coventry University)

Research interests

  • Critical Disability Studies
  • Gender and Queer Studies
  • Media and Cultural Studies

Conference papers

Kubenz, V.I. (2022) The (re)construction of disability through encounters in accessible parking spaces. RGS-IBG Annual International Conference, Newcastle, UK, 30 August 2022 

Kubenz, V.I. and Kiwan, D. (2022) Methodological reflections on developing an inclusive situational analysis framework, ICED 6th International Conference on Disability and Development: Disability and COVID-19. London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, 15 March 2022 

Kubenz, V.I. and Kiwan, D. (2021) Disability Under Siege: An Analytical Framework for a Disability-Inclusive COVID-19 Recovery. World Pandemic Research Network conference, 10 Dec 2021 

Kubenz, V.I. and Kiwan, D. (2021), The impact of COVID-19 on disabled people in Low- and Middle-Income Countries. Environments by Design: Health, Wellbeing, and Place, 2 Dec 2021 


Kubenz, V. I. Walking on eggshells: anxiety and managing emotions during disabled people’s everyday encounters with strangers (in progress) 

Kubenz, V. I. “There’s nothing wrong with you”: The making of disability through encounters in parking spaces (in progress) 

Kubenz, V. I. (2023) The Politics of Parking: Encounters with stranger in accessible parking spaces Summary report from Blue Badge holder survey. Birmingham, UK: University of Birmingham. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.31168.51209  

Kubenz, V. I. and Kiwan D. (2023) Vulnerable” or Systematically Excluded? The Impact of Covid-19 on Disabled People in Low- and Middle-Income Countries. Social Inclusion 11(1). 

Kubenz, V. I. and Kiwan D. (2022) Locked down and locked out: The role of the built environment in the exclusion of disabled people during the COVID-19 pandemic. Environments By Design: Health, Wellbeing and Place. AMPS PROCEEDINGS SERIES. ISSN 2398-9467. 

Kubenz, V. I. and Kiwan D. (2021) The Impact of COVID-19 on Disabled People in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Literature Review. University of Birmingham

Gibney, J. Clarke, H., Kubenz, V. I. and Munro, E. (2021) Disability and Leadership: New Challenges, New Possibilities, produced by the Work Inclusivity Research Centre (WIRC) University of Birmingham, The National Association of Disabled Staff Networks (NADSN) and Purple Space, Birmingham: University of Birmingham. 


Email: profile: @Vera_Kub
LinkedIn profile: vera-kubenz-a5bbb0165