Access Board Adopts Priorities for 2006 Research and Information Gathering

At its November meeting, the Access Board approved its research agenda for 2006. Every year the Board sponsors or promotes research on various aspects of accessibility. Through its work maintaining accessibility guidelines and standards and its provision of technical assistance, the Board regularly identifies issues or questions that merit further study. A public forum the Board held on its programs and services as a part of a series of ADA anniversary events also identified research priorities.


Several projects focus on issues pertaining to public streets and sidewalks, the subject of new guidelines the Board is developing for public rights-of-way.

Some of these efforts will expand existing projects undertaken by other agencies, such as the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). These include an assessment of available technologies for pedestrian signals at traffic roundabouts, which by their design and continuous traffic flow patterns pose challenges to pedestrians with vision impairments, and the development of guidance on selecting accessible pedestrian signal devices based on the type of intersection and site conditions.

In addition, funds will be budgeted to advance existing research on the relative effectiveness of various wayfinding cues, including returned curb edges, curb ramp orientation, tactile surfaces, and guide strips, for people with vision impairments in outdoor environments. The Board also plans to commission an analysis of standard human factors protocols for measuring the effects of slope and surface on manual wheelchair maneuvering.

Topics proposed by members of the public at the forum last July are also on the Board’s agenda. They include a study of communication access in transportation facilities, including airports and rail stations, and on transit vehicles to gather information for the Board’s use in updating its vehicle guidelines. Another project will build upon a major Board-funded study on indoor air quality completed this summer. Conducted by the National Institute of Building Sciences, this study explored ways to improve indoor environmental quality for people with multiple chemical or electro-magnetic sensitivities through specification of building products, materials, ventilation, and maintenance. Attendees of the Board’s forum strongly endorsed such a follow-on project.

Other projects will cover areas not previously addressed by the Board’s research program, including a review of existing research on lighting. The Board’s facility guidelines do not address lighting levels, and the results of this project will help to develop guidance material on the subject. The Board also seeks to convene an expert panel on the topic of assisted transfer of people with disabilities. Specifications in the Board’s guidelines for toilet and bathrooms are based on independent access and transfer, and questions have arisen about compliance in some types of medical care and assisted living facilities where bathrooms are designed specifically for aided transfer. In addition to these information collection efforts, the Board will explore a pilot program to provide translations of select Board materials in American Sign Language through web-based videos.

The project priorities will be initiated in 2006 to the extent that funding permits. Where possible, the Board seeks to undertake research in partnership with other organizations or to build upon existing projects in order to maximize available opportunities with limited funds. For further information on these projects or other aspects of the Board’s research program, contact Lois Thibault, the Board’s research coordinator, at research@access-board.gov (e-mail), (202) 272-0023 (voice), or (202) 272-0082 (TTY). Information on completed Board research is posted on the Board’s website at http://www.access-board.gov/research.htm.

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