Using geographic information systems (GIS) to measure community integration and accessibility for people with disabilities who were once homeless
This purpose ofthis dissertation is to expand the understanding of the community integration of individuals with disabilities who used to be homeless but now have permanent housing. Current measures of community integration rely on self-report assessments that often quantify physical or social participation, but fail to capture the individual's spatial presence in the community, accessibility to resources, and neighborhood characteristics that may promote or impede integration efforts. To sustain the momentum of research in community integration and recovery, new techniques using activity maps created by participants combined with quantitative assessments of integration are an important next step. The use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) techniques in combination with a participatory mapping interview provides a more comprehensive approach to evaluating community integration. In addition, GIS calculations of an individual's activity space area based on the drawn maps may provide meaningful information about one's activity and movement patterns within the community in relation to other measures of community integration. Finally, by having individuals create their own maps, they define what community means and what locations are important to them in the integration process. The first study measures the size ofan individual's activity space, or spatial extent of one's day-to-day interactions in the community, and compares this measure to the results of more traditional, survey-based community integration measures. Methods in the first study also explore the types of locations, activities, and resources that are identified as important to individuals in their interaction with the community, as well as test the significance of family involvement and feeling part of the community. The second study examines the relationship of proximity to community features within the individual's immediate environment to both community integration outcomes and the types of locations used. Methodological strengths of these studies include identification of current community integration activities from the individual's perspective and using a spatial approach to measure the impact of accessibility and neighborhood characteristics on community integration.
Thesis (Sc.D.)--Boston University