Exploring environmental measures in disability: Using Google Earth and Street View to conduct remote assessments of access and participation in urban and rural communities

Tom Seekins, Meg A. Traci, Emily C. Hicks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The Americans with Disabilities Act has been in place since 1990. Yet, we still do not know the actual levels of accessibility in the nation, how access varies across communities or over time, or how it influences participation in community life. The present two studies explored the use of Google Earth (GE) and Google Street View (GSV) imagery as a database for examining the accessibility of rural and urban cities and towns in the United States. We developed procedures for selecting places in a community to observe multiple access features. Study 1 reports the findings from assessments of 25 communities across 17 states. We observed ≈50,000 m (31 miles) of pathways through the observed places. The Combined Access Score (CAS) averaged 65% across these communities. In Study 2, we evaluated 22 towns and cities in a large rural state. We observed ≈77,000 m (48 miles) of pathways through the Central Business Districts observed as core areas connecting people to community life. The CAS averaged 83.9% across these communities. We noted a Rural Access Penalty (RAP), such that rural areas tended to be less accessible, leading to less community participation. The method for using GSV to examine accessibility is discussed. This study demonstrates an inexpensive and reliable method for evaluating the accessibility of communities and participation in them. Future research should be conducted to gather a larger sample of communities in order to create a baseline from which to monitor changes in accessibility of infrastructure over time.

Original languageEnglish
Article number879193
JournalFrontiers in Rehabilitation Sciences
Volume3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2022

Keywords

  • accessibility
  • behavioral ecology
  • disability
  • environment
  • participation
  • rural penalty

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Exploring environmental measures in disability: Using Google Earth and Street View to conduct remote assessments of access and participation in urban and rural communities'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this