Assessing Environmental Factors That Affect Disability: Establishing a Baseline of Visitability in a Rural State

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PurposeThe homes in which people live are one element of the shared built environment. The concept of visitability describes features of private homes that provide a minimal level of accessibility, allowing a person with mobility impairments to visit the homes of family and friends. This study's aim was to establish a baseline rate of basic home visitability in Montana.MethodA visitability question was included as part of the 2004 Montana Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) Questionnaire, a random-digit-dialed telephone survey of 5,005 Montana adults.ResultsNearly 1 in 5 respondents (19.3%) said “a person who uses special equipment such as a wheelchair… could get into [their] house without being carried up steps or over other obstacles.” Respondents with a disability who reported living in a visitable house were less likely than those who did not live in a visitable house to report any days of poor mental health in the past month.ConclusionThe BRFSS affords the opportunity to measure elements of the community environment important to the health and life quality of people with disabilities. Here, BRFSS data provided a baseline rate for visitable homes in the state. Strategies to increase this number are discussed.

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