Environmental barriers and supports to the health, function, and participation of people with developmental and intellectual disabilities: report from the State of the Science in Aging with Developmental Disabilities Conference.

BACKGROUND: This article summarizes the proceedings of the Environmental Barriers and Supports to Health, Function and Participation Work Group that was part of the “State of the Science in Aging with Developmental Disabilities: Charting Lifespan Trajectories and Supportive Environments for Healthy Living” symposium. The aim was to provide a research and policy agenda targeting the assessment and evaluation of environmental factors influencing the health, function, and participation of people with developmental and intellectual disabilities (I/DD).

METHODS: Key environmental areas addressed were (1) the built environment including homes and communities; (2) assistive and information technology design and use; (3) social environment factors and interventions; and (4) environmental access and participation policies, legislation, and system change implications.

RESULTS: The group identified gaps in knowledge and priorities for future research, including (1) multivariate analyses of attributes of the built environment; (2) large-scale intervention trials of assistive and information technology use with people with cognitive disabilities; (3) development and testing of social, peer-mentoring, and self-management interventions as applied to people with I/DD; (4) incorporation of environmental health research methodologies, such as GIS mapping into I/DD research; (5) participatory action approaches that actively include people with I/DD in the research process; and (6) rigorous examination of the impact of legislative and policy initiatives related to least restrictive community living and participation with people with I/DD.

CONCLUSION: Future research and policy initiatives should focus on examining how the environment (build, technological, social, and system level) influence community living and participation of people with intellectual disabilities.