Board Sponsored Study Examines Impacts of Rough Surfaces on Wheelchair Traffic

  Wood surfaces and exterior route surfaces tested in study  
  The study tested engineered surfaces made of wood (top) and various types of existing exterior routes (bottom).

A study funded by the Board was recently completed on how the roughness of pathway surfaces impacts wheelchair travel. This research, which was conducted by the Human Engineering Research Laboratories at the University of Pittsburgh, assessed the impacts of bumpy and uneven surfaces on people who use wheelchairs, including power chairs, by measuring the resulting body vibrations. While there are ways to measure and analyze surface roughness for roadways, none are capable of being directly transferred to pedestrian pathways.

A sample of 76 subjects tested nine different wooden surfaces engineered to represent different degrees of roughness to collect quantitative and subjective data. In addition, a subset of 38 subjects tested a dozen existing outdoor pathways composed of brick, concrete, or asphalt. Accelerometers recorded vibrations at the seat, footrest, and backrest, and subjects completed surveys to subjectively rate each surface and to indicate whether or not it was acceptable. The results confirmed a high correlation between surface roughness and the whole body vibrations wheelchair users are exposed to, as well as the perceived comfort level of traversing the surfaces. A portion of test surfaces were rated as unacceptable by over half of the subjects and were considered to cause discomfort. Some of the existing sidewalks included in the study were also shown to cause significant vibration levels.

Based on the test results, researchers recommend sidewalk roughness index thresholds for short and long distances (1.20 inch per foot for distances up to 10 feet and 0.60 inch per foot for distances above 100 feet). They also offer recommendations for a method and protocol to measure surface roughness, including the design of a measurement device. In addition, they provide suggestions for advancing development of an industry consensus standard for sidewalk surface roughness through ASTM International.

These and other recommendations and findings are contained in a report from the study, “Development of Surface Roughness Standards for Pathways Used by Wheelchair Users: Final Report.” For further information, contact Scott Windley, (202) 272-0025 (v), (202) 272-0028 (TTY), or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Rail Access Advisory Committee Holds Weekly Subcommittee Conference Calls
trainThe Rail Vehicles Access Advisory Committee (RVAAC), which is assisting the Board in its update of the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Transportation Vehicles, has been convening regular subcommittee meetings by conference call in advance of the next full committee meeting in February. The committee has organized four subcommittees which are addressing sections of the guidelines concerning boarding and alighting, onboard circulation and seating, communications, and rooms and spaces. The subcommittees will prepare recommendations to the full committee on how these sections of the guidelines should be updated. The committee’s work is focused on those portions of the vehicle guidelines that apply to fixed guideway systems, including rapid, light, commuter, intercity, and high speed rail. The Board will propose updates to the guidelines for public comment based on the committee’s recommendations.

Members of the public can participate in subcommittee discussions by phone or through real-time captioning. Further information, including connection details, is posted on the Board’s website.

RVAAC Subcommittee Conference Calls
1:00 - 3:00 (ET)

  • Communications Subcommittee: January 8
  • Onboard Circulation and Seating Subcommittee: January 14
  • Rooms and Spaces Subcommittee: January 22
  • Boarding and Alighting Subcommittee: December 18 and January 29

RVAAC Full Committee Meeting
February 26 – 27, 2015
Access Board Conference Center
1331 F Street, NW, Suite 800
Washington, D.C.


Upcoming Board Webinars
laptop with Access Board sealThe next webinar in the Board's free monthly series will take place January 8 from 2:30 – 4:00 (ET) and will feature an advanced session on accessible hospitals and medical care facilities. Presenters will review requirements in the ADA and ABA Accessibility Standards for medical care facilities and long-term care facilities including those covering patient bedrooms, toilet and bathing facilities, parking, alarms, and other elements. Questions can be submitted in advance of the session (total limited to 25) or can be posed during the webinar. An earlier webinar providing a basic overview of these requirements is available in the webinar archives. Participants are encouraged to review this archived webinar in advance of the upcoming session.

For more information, including registration instructions, visit The webinar series is made available in cooperation with the ADA National Network. Archived copies of previous Board webinars are also available on the site. Webinar attendees can earn continuing education credits (CEUs).

The following webinar, which will take place February 5, will provide an advanced session on accessible play areas.


Justice and Education Departments Issue Guidance on Effective Communication in Schools
Department of Justice and Department of Education sealsThe Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Education (ED) have issued joint guidance on providing effective communication for students with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), as well as the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504). This guidance, which includes frequently asked questions and a fact sheet, is intended to help schools, parents, students and others understand their obligations and rights under these laws.

IDEA requires schools to provide a free and appropriate public education consisting of special education and related services to all eligible children with disabilities. The ADA prohibits discrimination based on disability in the public and private sectors and includes requirements for public schools and other covered entities to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services to ensure effective means of communication for people with disabilities. The new guidance explains these requirements and how they can be met in order to achieve effective communication for students with hearing, vision, or speech disabilities. It also highlights differences between these laws and notes that certain auxiliary aids or services may be necessary to satisfy the ADA even though they are not required by the IDEA.


FTA Seeks Comment on Proposed ADA Circulars
DOT sealThe Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has released for public comment proposed circulars that provide guidance to transportation providers on fulfilling requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the ADA, the FTA regulates and enforces requirements for transportation services, vehicles, and facilities covered by the law. The proposed circulars are intended to explain and clarify requirements contained in FTA’s ADA regulations. They do not amend or alter the substance of these regulations.

The proposed circulars comprise 7 chapters covering transportation facilities (Chapter 3), fixed route service (Chapter 6), demand responsive service (Chapter 7), paratransit eligibility (Chapter 9), passenger vessels (Chapter 10), other transit modes (Chapter 11), and oversight, complaints, and monitoring (Chapter 12). These proposed chapters will join those FTA previously issued addressing applicability (Chapter 1), general requirements (Chapter 2), vehicle acquisition (Chapter 4), equivalent
facilitation (Chapter 5), and complementary paratransit service (Chapter 8). In addition, FTA is proposing to add content on monitoring practices to the Chapter 2 and 8 circulars.

Comments are due January 12, 2015. A notice published in the Federal Register provides further details.


Access Currents is a free newsletter issued by the Access Board every other month by mail and e-mail. Send questions or comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (800) 872-2253 ext. 0026 (voice) or (800) 993-2822 (TTY). Mailing address: 1331 F Street, N.W., Suite 1000; Washington, D.C. 20004-1111.