Lay Summary by Michael Limmena
Edited by Rona Herzog
This is a summary of research conducted by ICORD PIs Dr. Ben Mortenson and Dr. William Miller, and their colleagues Dr. Mike Prescott and Dr. François Routhier. Click here to access the original research paper.
People who use mobility devices such as wheelchairs, scooters, walkers, and canes, may find that travelling within their neighbourhood and city can be challenging. This is due to both physical barriers, including missing curb ramps, stairs, unsafe street crossings, etc.; and social barriers, such as fear of crime and feelings of stigma. As a result, these barriers have the potential to reduce the area of the activity spaces that people who use mobility devices utilize. Activity spaces are defined as the areas where people typically go in their daily lives, including grocery stores, restaurants, schools, and workplaces.
Along with the barriers listed above, there are also many personal and environmental factors that have the potential to affect the area of activity spaces. There is currently very little research about how personal and environmental factors may influence one another and affect the area of the activity spaces of people who use mobility devices. Factors considered for people who use mobility devices include: age, type of physical disability, mobility independence, characteristics of where they live (e.g. urban/rural), walkability, and personal perception of the accessibility of their neighbourhood. With this information, city planners can make communities and cities more accessible for people who use mobility devices.
What was the purpose of this study?
The three purposes of this study were:
- to determine how personal and environmental factors affect the area of activity spaces for individuals using mobility devices
- to estimate how these factors might affect the activity space sizes of mobility device users
- to determine whether there are differences based on type of mobility device used
How was the research conducted?
The researchers surveyed participants living in Vancouver and Québec City to collect personal and environmental information and provided them with wearable GPS devices that tracked their movements. Using the tracking data from the GPS devices, the researchers could estimate the participants’ daily path area and the area of their activity spaces.
What were the results?
The researchers found:
- 43% of the differences in the area of a person’s activity space could be attributed to environmental and personal factors.
- People who use mobility devices and volunteer, go to school, or work, are typically younger and have larger activity spaces than those not involved in similar activities.
- Neighbourhoods with greater walkability were associated with smaller activity spaces of people who use mobility devices. This could be related to the importance of being able to access transportation – whether private or public – for people who use mobility devices in their daily lives. With access to transportation, people who use mobility devices can travel farther from their neighbourhoods to visit their family, friends, doctors, etc.
- People who had their own car had activity spaces two times larger than those who did not.
- Activity spaces were larger in the winter than during summer. This could be attributable to relying on cars because walking or wheeling in the neighbourhood was too difficult..
- Researchers did not find a significant relationship between the type of mobility device used and the area of activity space of people who use mobility devices.
Why is this study important?
The importance of this study relates to a greater understanding of how factors* can affect people who use mobility devices ability to travel, which in turn affects the area of their activity space. The researchers findings suggest that city and neighbourhood planners need to consider the difference between walkability and accessibility in their environmental design processes.
Definition of Study-Specific Terms:
Daily Path Area – A technique used to calculate the area of a person’s activity space. Using the person’s actual travel data, the researchers can estimate the area of a person’s activity space
Walkability – A score between 0 (not walkable) and 100 (walking paradise) that describes how walkable a specific neighbourhood or city is. This score was calculated using this website.