Environmental Barriers and Social Participation in Individuals With Spinal Cord Injury

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Objective: The study aimed to examine the relationship between environmental barriers and social participation among individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI). Method: Individuals admitted to regional centers of the Model Spinal Cord Injury System in the United States due to traumatic SCI were interviewed and included in the National Spinal Cord Injury Database. This cross-sectional study applied a secondary analysis with a mixed effect model on the data from 3,162 individuals who received interviews from 2000 through 2005. Five dimensions of environmental barriers were estimated using the short form of the Craig Hospital Inventory of Environmental Factors—Short Form (CHIEF-SF). Social participation was measured with the short form of the Craig Handicap Assessment and Reporting Technique—Short Form (CHART-SF) and their employment status. Results: Subscales of environmental barriers were negatively associated with the social participation measures. Each 1 point increase in CHIEF-SF total score (indicated greater environmental barriers) was associated with a 0.82 point reduction in CHART-SF total score (95% CI: −1.07, −0.57) (decreased social participation) and 4% reduction in the odds of being employed. Among the 5 CHIEF-SF dimensions, assistance barriers exhibited the strongest negative association with CHART-SF social participation score when compared to other dimensions, while work/school dimension demonstrated the weakest association with CHART-SF. Conclusions: Environmental barriers are negatively associated with social participation in the SCI population. Working toward eliminating environmental barriers, especially assistance/service barriers, may help enhance social participation for people with SCI.

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