The Board plans to sponsor research in the following areas in 2006. 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 priorities on the list were recommended by the public in a forum the Board held last July on its programs and services. These project priorities will be initiated this year 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, contact Lois Thibault, the Board’s research coordinator.
Accessible Pedestrian Signals
The Federal Highway Administration has received many inquiries on the best way to provide pedestrian signals that are accessible to people with vision impairments. This project will develop guidance on selecting pedestrian signal devices based on the type of intersection and site conditions.
Pedestrian Signals at Roundabouts
The design and continuous traffic flow patterns of roundabouts pose particular challenges to pedestrians with vision impairments. The Board intends to supplement a study by the Federal Highway Administration that will assess available technologies for pedestrian signals at traffic roundabouts.
Outdoor Wayfinding Cues
Research underway by the Department of Blind Rehabilitation at Western Michigan University is assessing the relative effectiveness of various wayfinding cues for people with vision impairments in the outdoor environment. These include returned curb edges, curb ramp orientation, tactile surfaces, and guide strips. The Board plans to provide supplemental funding to expand the scope of this project so that a wider range of cues and a greater number of subjects can be tested.
Effects of Slope and Surface on Wheelchair Maneuvering
Conflicting and counter-intuitive results from several recent research projects on manual wheelchair mobility suggest that standard human factors measures of energy use and difficulty gathered from ambulatory subjects may not be accurate for travel in a manual wheelchair. This project will analyze standard human factors protocols for measuring the effects of slope and surface on manual wheelchair maneuvering.
Communication in Transit Facilities and Vehicles
This project will assess issues and technological solutions in providing effective communication in transportation facilities, including airports and rail stations, and on transit vehicles. Recommended by the public in the forum held last July, this study will provide information that can be used by the Board in determining whether provisions in its guidelines for transportation vehicles and facilities merit revision.
Indoor Environmental Quality
This project will build upon a major Board-funded study on indoor air quality completed in 2005. 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 at the Board’s public forum strongly endorsed such a follow-on project.
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. Research on this topic was recommended by the public at the Board’s forum.
The Board 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.
Sign Language Video Translations
The Board will explore a pilot program to provide translations of select Board materials in American Sign Language through web-based videos.