Answered Questions: Monthly News for the Disability Community for December 2018

Answered Questions is a monthly resource for the Spanish language Disability Community that fills an information need. This month’s question is: What are physical barriers? This edition of Answered Questions includes items that define physical barriers; describe the research and development projects of a NIDILRR-funded project that address a multilevel set of barriers; describe a study on physical barriers in public transportation; explain how augmented signs may increase access to van-accessible parking spaces; describe physical and structural barriers to dental care; describe a study to design a workshop for architecture students on architectural and urban barriers; discuss accessibility in schools; highlight barriers and facilitators to the employment of people with autism spectrum disorder (TEA); lay out guidelines and standards on providing access to people with disabilities; and explain the different aspects of physical barriers. More about Answered Questions.

What are physical barriers?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), physical barriers are “structural obstacles in natural or man-made environments, which impede or block mobility (displacement through the environment) or access.” Examples of physical barriers can include steps and curbs that block a person with mobility disabilities from entering a building or that prevent them from using sidewalks; medical equipment that requires people with mobility disabilities to stand, such as mammography equipment; and the absence of a weight scale that accommodates people who use wheelchairs or people with other difficulties to get on it.

NIDILRR-Funded Projects:

Researchers at the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Exercise and Recreational Technologies for People with Disabilities (English) (90REGE0002) conduct a set of research and development projects to address a multilevel set of barriers to participation in healthful exercise and recreation among adults with physical disabilities. The areas of research and development include the advancement of a wheelchair accessible active video gaming controller to expand game play among people with physical disabilities, a crowdsourcing platform for building accessible community-based exercise and recreation resources, and a study that examines the barriers and facilitators associated with the adoption of universal design of fitness equipment standards by manufactures and the managers of fitness centers. The researchers anticipate outcomes that include a set of hardware and software products that improve the health, function, and quality of life of people with physical disabilities.

From the NARIC Collection:

The article, Public transportation: An investigation of barriers for people with disabilities (J76378) (English) from the NIDILRR-funded ADA Participation Action Research Consortium (90DP0026) (English), discusses a study to identify the barriers experienced by people with disabilities when they use public transportation and complementary paratransit services. Participants in the study reported physical and attitudinal barriers to public transportation, which affected people with a variety of disabilities. The researchers found that significant barriers for people with disabilities who use public transportation and complementary paratransit services and recommend modifications to the physical environment and educational opportunities to reduce negative attitudes toward people with disabilities.

Research In Focus:

The article, Nowhere to park your accessible van: Augmented signage may increase access to van-accessible parking spaces, discusses an observational study conducted by researchers at the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Community Living (90RT5015) (English) that compared the established ADA-accessible parking space signs with four augmented test signs depicting ramp-equipped vehicles developed with input from a focus group held before the study. The researchers conducted more than 160 observations during high-traffic peak shopping hours in the morning and evening. They found that augmented signs with additional messages, like the ones developed for the study, are moderately more effective at deterring drivers from parking in the van-accessible spaces than standard signs currently in use.


The article, Physical and structural barriers for the dental treatment of people with motor disabilities, discusses a study to identify physical and structural barriers to dental appointments for people with motor disabilities. The study found that barriers included the absence of elevators, handrails on the stairs, and access ramps in dental offices. However, the most reported barriers were the height of the chair and the height and distance of the small sink used for rinsing and spitting. The researchers concluded that there are many physical and structural barriers within dental clinics that can prevent appropriate, effective and quality dental care for people with motor disabilities.

Occupational Therapy and Architecture:

The article, Workshop for Architecture Students about Architectural and Urban Barriers, discusses a study conducted by occupational therapy (OT) students at the University of Chile to find out what architecture students know about architectural and urban barriers in the social integration process of people with disabilities before designing and implementing a workshop for architecture students on architectural and urban barriers. The OT students found that such a workshop would be beneficial to architecture students and that the workshop should focus on two areas: technical aspects of design and construction and the impact that architectural and urban barriers have on the social inclusion process of people with disabilities. The students suggest a similar workshop for OT students to give them experience and knowledge in the technical aspects of design and construction.


The article, Accessibility in Schools (CERMI), discusses accessibility and management of accessibility in European schools. The article offers an in-depth discussion of barriers to education, including physical barriers in classrooms, libraries, bathrooms, cafeterias, and labs, as well as physical barriers to transportation and outings. It also discusses the accessibility of educational materials, games, and curricula. The article ends with an instrument to manage accessibility within the educational setting.


Barriers and facilitators of the employment of people with Autism Spectrum Disorders, according to a study (Infocop) is an article that discusses a study from researchers at the Autism Confederation of Spain that looked at the employment and labor inclusion of adults with ASD in Spain from the perspective of people with ASD, their families, and the professionals who provide support services. Researchers wanted to know more about the actual employment situation of people with ASD, their experiences in the labor market, and what barriers and facilitators to the hiring of people with ASD were in the labor market. The study found that, although the characteristics that define ASD are greatly valued in the work environment, many people with TEA find themselves to be unemployed due to many barriers, including physical barriers, lack of support, and policies that are a detriment to providing access to employment.


Further Research:




About Answered Questions

Each month, we look through the searches on our blog and through the information requests made by our patrons who speak Spanish and pick a topic that fills the largest need. Each resource mentioned above is associated with this month’s information need. We search the various Spanish language news sources and feeds throughout the month to bring you these articles. With the exception of the NIDILRR Projects, From the NARIC Collection, and Further Investigation, all the linked articles and resources are in Spanish – any that are in English will be clearly marked.

About mpgarcia

I'm the Bilingual Information/Media Specialist at NARIC.
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