Date of Award

December 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

Roger O Smith

Committee Members

Sara L Jozwik, Joyce M Engel


Blind, Deaf/Hard of hearing, Low Vision, Sensory Accessibility


Objective. The objective of the study is to compare hypothesized similar sensory accessibility needs of Lighting, Acoustics, Openness, Color/Contrast, and Services/communication for the hard of hearing and low vision population. Background. The Americans with Disability Act – Architectural Barriers Act Design Guidelines (ADA-ABA, 2004, 2015) provides guidelines to increase accessibility of public buildings for individuals covered by the ADA (1990). However, these guidelines often fall short of providing functional and practical guidelines to be accessible for all. Extant building rating tools fail to attend to the overlap of functional needs for the hard of hearing and/or low vision populations. Thus, there is a need to explore the similarities as they relate to not only accessing the environment but also staying in and engaging with the environment. We hypothesize Lighting, Openness, and Color/Contrast will be important building features to help facilitate engagement in the environment. 2) We hypothesize Acoustics and Services/Communication will have different levels of perceived importance in the facilitation of participation in the environment for hard of hearing and low vision populations. Methods. An exploratory between-group study was conducted through a survey developed specifically for this research study to compare similar sensory accessibility needs for 35 individuals who self-identify as low vision or hard of hearing. A Mann-Whitney U-test analysis (p = 0.01, 95% CI) was run on all the survey questions to analyze the statistical differences of the distributions. Results. The importance of Lighting (U = 82.0, p = .074), Acoustics (U = 192.5, p<0.001), Openness (U = 80.0, p = .064), and Services/communication (U = 86.0, p = .102) showed there was not a statistically significant difference between individuals who are hard of hearing and individuals with low vision. The importance of Color/Contrast (U = 18.5, p<.001) showed a statistically significant difference between individuals who are hard of hearing and individuals with low vision. Discussion. Implications for future research, and limitations are discussed.

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