Home Entrances: Barriers to community participation start at home

September 13, 2021

Steps and staircases are a noted barrier to public spaces that limit equal opportunity to participate in community life. The ADA, and other civil rights laws, are designed to address these barriers. However, barriers in private residences are often not addressed by these laws. A recent publication in the Disability and Health Journal looks at how, for people with mobility impairments, the first barriers to community participation may start at home.

A house with steps leading from the front and a side entrancePhoto by Eric Muhr on Unsplash

Purpose:

In their paper, researchers from RTC:Rural and the University of Kansas took a closer look at how steps at the entrance of a home affects the community participation levels of people with mobility impairments.

While much of the existing literature on participation of people with disabilities focuses on personal factors, like disability status, this research explored how navigating their home influences people’s participation in the community, filling a research gap linking home environment and participation.

What they did:

The team compared the presence of steps at the entrance to the homes of people with and without mobility impairments. Then, they collected surveys that measured: how much energy participants used to navigate entrance steps in and out of their homes, the number of trips participants took into the community, and the social and recreational activities they did outside of their homes. Finally, the research team explored the relationship between the presence of steps into people’s homes and their participation in community activities.

Summary of findings:

Researchers found that while people with mobility impairments were less likely to report having to navigate steps to their home entrance compared to people without mobility impairments, when they did, they used more energy than those without mobility impairments. When comparing the number and types of trips taken outside of the home, researchers discovered that steps didn’t affect the number of non-discretionary trips (e.g., getting groceries, medications) taken by people with mobility impairments. However, it did impact discretionary trips resulting in nearly 50% fewer social and recreational trips outside of the home compared to people without mobility impairments.

Implications:

While many interventions designed to support the participation of people with disabilities address the interaction between personal function with the community environment, this research suggests the one’s personal environment, namely the presence of steps into and out of their home, may be an important factor in people’s level of community participation and should be taken into account in further research and development.

Read a summary of the paper here:

Read the full paper here:

Is the presence of home entrance steps associated with community participation of people with mobility impairments?