Access Ratings for Buildings Project
Download the WUWM interview with primary investigator Roger O. Smith about the Access Ratings for Buildings project!
The Access Ratings for Buildings (AR-B) Project, funded by the National Institute of Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), is developing a mobile and web-based system for providing up-to-date accessibility information about public buildings for people with disabilities, their families and friends, and building owners. The AR-B system combines both ADA information and user experience ratings within one platform, so that users have access to the most useful information for their particular needs.
The Goal: Accessibility Information About Public Buildings
AR-B users first create a profile, allowing the system to personalize the display of building information that is most related to the individual's specific accessibility needs. Users may choose to view summary reports or navigate through the details, with information provided from other people with disabilities and building visitors who have shared personal accessibility testimonials and ratings for particular buildings.
Building data is populated by building visitors with accessibility needs as well as trained accessibility evaluators. Users share comments and rate as many (or as few) of the building's accessibility features (or lack thereof) as they like. Trained building evaluators perform a comprehensive assessment of the building's publicly visited areas, collecting a significant number of objective measurements.
Overall User Interaction with the AR-B System
In the above figure, Data Collectors use mobile platforms to input building accessibility data into the Report Generator cloud. As not all users have mobile devices, we have expanded our plan to include data collection via desktop computers. Personal Profiles created by users are used to filter building accessibility data and generated personalized UD-4-Me reports for each user. Expert-created profiles for common impairments are used to filter the building accessibility for general UD-4-All reports, which summarize the building's accessiblity for a range of impairments. The reports are made available to Data Users through multiple platforms, including smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop workstations. This figure does not clearly illustrate the significant overlap we expect between Data Collectors and Data Users.
If you are interested in assisting us with any of the development or testing, please contact us at AccessRatings-Buildings@uwm.edu. Please include your contact information and indicate if you are located in the Milwaukee, WI area.
The Problem: Unexpected Barriers
In spite of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, people with disabilities continue to be challenged in the community by buildings with accessibility barriers. While progress has been made, a substantial percentage of buildings remain inaccessible or only partially accessible due to various physical, sensory, and cognitive barriers. Many buildings also still fail to meet ADA building standards due to age or protected building status. Statistically, it is estimated that more than 50 million people with a wide range of disabilities encounter design problems with facilities. Yet, no postings of building accessibility information are readily available or required. Consequently, people with disabilities may not have information about barriers until they encounter them, which ultimately affects their level of participation in the community. It is immensely beneficial for all people, especially people with accessibility needs, to know what to expect ahead of time before they attempt to navigate a building. Armed with relevant accessibility information, people can determine which establishment will best serve their needs, plan alternatives, bring assistance, or even avoid particular barriers. Furthermore, people who are responsible for the design and operation of buildings should be aware of the details about their building’s accessibility. A simple and portable evaluation and reporting tool would enable building assessors to improve their analyses, building owners to plan building improvements and market accessible buildings to their advantage, and advocates to use the evidence-base to document the need for policy change.
The AR-B team has developed a preliminary taxonomy specific to restaurants that is being expanded to address public buildings in general. This taxonomy includes user demographics, building types, general building elements, detailed ADAAG requirements and additional functional building elements related to accessibility, a subjective experience rating domain, and individual subjective building element prioritization. These data are organized and structurally integrated to create both data collection and reporting interfaces for three major user groups:
- building users (targeting people with disabilities, friends or relatives)
- building evaluators (including advocates and building assessors)
- building overseers (such as owners, managers, and policy makers)
Pilot data have been collected from building users with plans to conduct more extensive focus groups. A second round of mock-up software interfaces are being developed that include an important new design concept. The software will include, not only the different user groups, data collection and reports, but also the design of the user prioritization and filtering for the personalized UD-4-Me concept.The initial data collection platform is designed as an accessible mobile smartphone application. Building scores are stored in a central interactive database or "cloud" so that individual users do not have to worry about where the data are stored. Instead, users can obtain free building accessibility reports from anywhere the Internet is available. Reports can be retrieved via both a traditional web page and a mobile application. The accessibility of the AR-B interface is critically important given the intended users of this product. It is intended that users be able to use the system sight free or audio free, with optional cognitive levels of complexity and minimal physical control requirements.
Review of Assessments
In the course of an extensive review of existing building accessibility assessments we discovered significant limitations in current approaches. Please send us a note at AccessRatings-Buildings@uwm.edu if we missed an assessment.
Conference Presentations & Proceedings
Park, M. & Smith, R.O. (2011, April). Preliminary Validation of the Restaurant Accessibility and Task Evaluation Information Tool (RATE-IT): Content and Construct Validity. Paper presented at American Occupational Therapy Association, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (PA).
Park, M., Smith, R.O. & Liegl, K. (2011, June). Preliminary Validation of the Restaurant Accessibility and Task Evaluation Information Tool (RATE-IT): Content and Construct Validity, Presented at Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of America (RESNA), Toronto, Canada.
Liegl, K.P., Lemke, M.R., Park, M., Erfurth, A., & Smith, R.O. (2011). Differences between Architecture and Occupational Therapy Student Perceptions of Restaurant Accessibility using the RATE-IT Evaluation Tool. Presented at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, Ithaca, New York (NY).
Liegl, K.P., & Lemke, M.R. (2011). Student Perceptions of the RATE-IT evaluation tool and usefulness of RATE-IT scores for people with disabilities. Presented at the 11th Annual University of Wisconsin System Symposium for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity, Parkside, Wisconsin (WI).
Park, M (2011). Preliminary Validation of the Restaurant Accessibility and Task Evaluation Information Tool (RATE-IT): Content and Construct Validity. UWM Library: University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee.
Erfurth, A (2011). Measurement of restaurant accessibility by people with disabilities: Preliminary consequential and construct validity of a restaurant universal design assessment. UWM Library: University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee.
For more information, or if you are interested in assisting with any of the development or testing of the AR-B system, please contact us at AccessRatings-Buildings@uwm.edu. Please include your contact information and indicate if you are located in the Milwaukee, WI area.