A pilot study of functional access to public buildings and facilities for persons with impairments Journal Articles uri icon

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  • PURPOSE: To compare functional access to public buildings and facilities for persons with and without impairments. METHOD: This is a cross-sectional pilot study with a survey design. A four-member participant team representing three impairment types: mobility impaired person using a wheelchair, mobility impaired person who was not a wheelchair user, visually impaired person, and a control with no known impairments, challenged a stratified random sample of 30 public buildings in Greater Boston. Using a task oriented data collection instrument, functional access was determined in terms of percentage of tasks performed, time, distance, barriers and facilitators. RESULTS: Overall, task performance was high for the team. However, the wheelchair user reported a lower task performance (81%) in comparison to the control (100%) and persons with mobility and visual impairments (97-98%). There was little variation in mean values for time and distance to complete tasks. More barriers were reported by the persons with mobility impairments, wheelchair user and non-wheelchair user, and; highest facilitators by the person with visual impairment and the wheelchair user. The control reported the lowest barriers and facilitators. The types of barriers and facilitators varied for the three impairments and the control structural for wheelchair and mobility impairments, wayfinding for visual impairment and interpersonal for control. CONCLUSIONS: Task performance by itself may not be a good predictor of functional access. Barriers and facilitators are critical to understanding issues related to functional access for persons with impairments. Knowledge of how these differ for different impairments can be useful for improving environmental access and rehabilitation.


  • Thapar, Neela
  • Warner, Grace
  • Drainoni, Mari-Lynn
  • Williams, Steve R
  • Ditchfield, Holly
  • Wierbicky, Jane
  • Nesathurai, Shanker

publication date

  • March 4, 2004