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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Towards a conceptual framework of navigation for people who use wheeled mobility devices in the community Prescott, Michael


People with disabilities face challenges participating in all aspects of community life because transportation systems and infrastructure have not been built to meet their requirements. This is especially true for mobility device users trying to navigate complex and dynamic pedestrian environments. The goal our research was to explore how mobility device users planned and executed trips along unfamiliar routes, measure navigation-related outcomes, and develop a conceptual framework that can inform future research and practice. To address this goal, four studies were conducted that included a scoping review of the factors affecting the navigation of people with disabilities, a cross sectional study of the activity spaces of people who use mobility devices, a wheeling interview of people who use wheeled mobility devices to navigate unfamiliar environments, and a concept mapping exercise to create a conceptual framework of the factors affecting the route choices of people who use wheeled mobility devices in their community. The results of our studies suggest that personal, mobility device, environmental, and contextual factors affect where mobility device users can go in their community. The scoping review reinforced the need for more research that embodies the mobility experiences of people with disabilities by highlighting the limited number of studies that focus on them or the diversity of the navigational challenges they face. The findings from our novel research suggest that car ownership, seasonal effects, and walkability of neighbourhoods may influence access to local and regional access to destinations for mobility device users. Underlying factors such as poor signage, hazardous surfaces, and disorientation were evident during wheeling interviews. These factors may have contributed to the fact that trip plans were 20% further than the shortest possible distance, actual routes were 15% further than planned routes, and actual routes were 40% further than the shortest possible distance that was accessible. Manual wheelchair users expressed and demonstrated the greatest difficulties. The conceptual framework unified the research by depicting the relationships between factors that influenced the route choices of people who use wheeled mobility devices. This thesis has identified opportunities to improve navigation and make communities more universally accessible.

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