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The Built Environment, Accessibility, and Mobility Study (BEAMS)

Physical activity among older people with mobility disabilities is a public health concern. Features of the built environment very likely affect physical activity in this population.

Although surveys exist that measure perceptions of the built environment, few specifically focus on this population.

We need to understand the relationship between the built environment and its effects on physical activity, in order to build effective interventions that encourage physical activity among older people with mobility disabilities.

Study purpose

The purpose of this study is to better understand barriers and facilitators to physical activity among those over age 50 with mobility disabilities. And further, to use this information to adapt the Neighborhood Environment Walkability Scale (NEWS) for older adults with mobility disabilities. (NEWS is a widely used measure of perceptions of the built environment.)

Study participants

There are 35 participants (mean age = 65; range: 51-84) who use a cane, walker, wheelchair, or other assistive device to get around.

Study activities

Phase 1

We conducted in-depth interviews in participants' homes using open-ended questions about barriers and facilitators to their physical activity in their neighborhood. These interviews were guided by maps generated from Geographic Positioning Systems (GPS).

After the in-home interview, we took a two- to three-block tour of the local area with the interviewee so that features of the environment could be pointed out and further discussed.

Content from the interviews was used to adapt the Neighborhood Environment Walkability Scale (NEWS).

Phase 2

Study participants completed the adapted NEWS as well as an evaluation of it. The investigators are in the process of developing an adapted version of the NEWS that can be used among older people with mobility disabilities.


Rosenberg D, Huang, D, Simonvich S, & Belza B. (2012) Outdoor Built Environment Barriers and Facilitators to Activity among Midlife and Older Adults with Mobility Disabilities. The Gerontologist 2012;

Huang D, Rosenberg D, Simonovich S, Belza B (2012). Food Access Patterns and Barriers Among Midlife and Older Adults with Mobility Disabilities, Journal of Aging Research. Article ID 231489, 8 pages, 2012.

BEAMS Policy Brief

For more information, contact:


Basia Belza, PhD, RN, FAAN
School of Nursing

Dori Rosenberg, PhD, MPH
Department of Rehabilitation Medicine

Research assistant

Shannon Petz, BSN, RN
School of Nursing