RPI Professor Publishes New Book

Dr. Raquel Velho’s Hacking the Underground explores accessibility in public transportation

March 11, 2024

Hacking the Underground

Raquel Velho, Ph.D., associate professor and undergraduate program director of science and technology studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, has recently published a new book, Hacking the Underground: Disability, Infrastructure, and London’s Public Transport System.

Published by the University of Washington Press, Hacking the Underground considers the London Underground’s famous recommendation that passengers “mind the gap” in order to safely board and disembark trains, and how the already complex process of navigating a major metropolitan public transportation system becomes even more so for disabled passengers. In recounting the ways that marginalized groups have subverted and transformed the environment they navigate – by planning out customized routes before leaving home and even traveling with portable ramps – Velho documents the ways that infrastructure development has risked excluding them, while also centering their voices and highlighting the possibilities for inclusion that their experiences and improvisations highlight.

“Raquel Velho’s Hacking the Underground reveals and challenges the prevailing notion that infrastructure is invisible until it is broken,” says Mary Simoni, Ph.D., dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at RPI. “Instead, her research reveals that infrastructure is likely invisible to those who are privileged by the design of that infrastructure.”

Velho has taught at Rensselaer since 2017. She began her research into accessibility issues on the London transport system while earning her doctorate in science and technology studies from University College London. The publication of Hacking the Underground coincides with her promotion to associate professor with tenure at RPI.

“Velho captures the texture of daily living in relation to public transportation (and lack thereof),” says Alison Kafer, author of Feminist, Queer, Crip. “Hacking the Underground will be of great interest to many, including disabled people, disability activists, allies, designers, planners, and organizers.”


Written By Christian TeBordo
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