A Review of Standards of Gradient: New Directions

By Lyons, Gerard G. | Palaestra, Fall 1992 | Go to article overview

A Review of Standards of Gradient: New Directions


Lyons, Gerard G., Palaestra


"...ATCB was charged with insuring compliance with the Architectural Barriers Act of August 12, 1968, investigating alternative approaches to a wide variety of barriers, identifying measures being taken to eliminate barriers, and establishing minimum guidelines and requirements for standards issued."

In 1973, The Rehabilitation Act (PL 93-112) was passed into legislation. PL 93-112, Sec. 502 established the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (ATBCB). ATBCB consisted of 11 members appointed by the President from the general public, five of whom were to be individuals with disabilities. Remaining members were heads or designees of executive level or higher from the following departments or agencies: Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Transportation, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Labor, Department of the Interior, Department of Defense, Department of Justice, General Services Administration, Veterans Administration, United States Postal Service, and Department of Education.

ATBCB was charged with insuring compliance with the Architectural Barriers Act of August 12, 1968, investigating alternative approaches to a wide variety of barriers, identifying measures being taken to eliminate barriers, and establishing minimum guidelines and requirements for standards issued.

Philosophical principles expressed by those legislative acts served to illustrate two important historical milestones. First, the law established in writing the right to access and use of facilities. The historical change was a direct shift in philosophical thought and practical application. Secondly, including members within the ranks of ATBCB who were themselves disabled, put into law an underdeveloped notion that they, by nature of their practical experiences, might be qualified to serve in judging and advising on architectural barriers.

Prevailing practice in research and experimentation of human performances of individuals with physical disabilities have been to experiment using subjects with disabilities. Expected results were thought to bear direct relationships to needs of people with disabilities in general. Such relationships appeared to be obvious. The contradiction was that no single group can be expected to represent with any reliability, the larger population of people with disabilities. Therefore, one should not expect standards and/or guidelines based upon experimentation with only subjects with limited disabilities to offer accessibility for all people with disabilities. Nor is it reasonable to expect, without proof, that standards should offer accessibility for all people, even those who are not classified as disabled.

The purpose of this article is not to suggest that individuals with physical disabilities be precluded from research designed to study human performances or establish standards for accessibility, but to share results of experimentation which incorporated several novel concepts designed to remedy preconceived notions and practices of making generalized standards for all people based on very specific subject samples. The following experimentation which may have the purpose of in research design. It is hoped future research and experimentation which may have the purpose of developing standards and guidelines for accessibility can utilize new directions presented here and advance them accordingly.

Perceived Exertion

Perceived Exertion (PE) was designed to discover how individuals react to certain work loads. For purposes of experimentation presented here, PE was viewed as the most efficacious method of determining individual responses to a variety of gradients. That decision was based upon several important research discoveries.

Original work on PE by Borg (1973) established that PE correlated in a fairly linear fashion with heart rates. Borg mentioned that even though methods were not reflective of true ratio scaling,

Table 2
Perceived Exertion
                       Rise-Ft/Run-Ft
Slope (ft)      1/20,600    1/20. 

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