Methods for Examining Pathways to Participation – A State of the Science Colloquium

Overview and Agenda

Methods for Examining Pathways to Participation, the third colloquium in the series “An Ecological View of Disability for an Era of Community Living: Toward a Science of the Environment and Participation” took place in September 2015 and featured presentations from Dr. Tom Seekins and Dr. Diep Dao.

Dr. Seekins, presented on the use of Google Earth street view to identify usability features in the built environment. Google Earth street view uses cameras to collect images which can be analyzed to assess features in the built environment that either promote or inhibit the participation of people with disabilities in community life. Such features may include access ramps, curb cuts, hand rails and street parking. In reviewing these images, researchers look for access features as well as the presence or absence of people with disabilities as a way to assess participation. Environmental accessibility is rated on a 5-point scale, with a high rate indicating ease of use. Using what they call the “rule of proportionate presence,” researchers assess the number of people with disabilities in a particular place and consider variance to the proportion of people with disabilities expected in the population. As such, researchers are interested in exploring how the accessibility of the environment may account for the variance in public engagement/participation by people with disabilities in communities and events

Dr. Dao, presented on the transportation geography of internal environments and the evaluation of user accessibility using 3-D models computer models. These 3-D models map interior spaces and routing, giving the user the opportunity to evaluate access issues in the planning phases of new building construction. Factors such as navigable spaces, travel time to internal locations or exits, as well as ease of access to safety features such as AEDs and emergency exits can be plotted using a 3-D model to help ensure all users can move freely and safely within the building. These 3-D models can also be used to evaluate plans for retrofitting existing structures to improve safety and accessibility.


Ton_Seekins_UpdateTom Seekins is professor of psychology and has been Director of the Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities at the University of Montana since 1993. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Kansas in 1983. His research emphasizes issues of rural health and disability, rural community and economic development, rural policy, and disability among American Indian tribes and reservations. He has served as President of the American Association on Health and Disability and as President of the National Association of Rehabilitation Research and Training Centers.


diep.daoDiep Dao is an Assistant Professor of Geography at the University of Montana. Building from a background in Geomatics Engineering and GIScience, Dr. Dao’s research interests lie in the development of new approaches for spatial data analytics, spatial modeling, geo-computation, and geo-visualization that can be broadly applied within GISciences and its interdisciplinary settings. She is the author and co-author of various publications which have achieved over 240 citations. Her most recent research projects relates to spatial network analysis, spatial data analysis for crime and health geography.