Autism and the Built Environment: Evaluating the Physiological and Biomedical Effects of Pedestrian Infrastructure Design and Road Crossing Behavior of Adults on the Autism Spectrum

Rutgers University

Project Description

The project will analyze the physiological and biomedical impacts of pedestrian infrastructure design and road crossing behaviors of adults with ASD as compared to a control group.

The Americans with Disability Act of 1990 spurred the redesign of pedestrian infrastructure to address that barriers faced by those with disabilities in navigating as pedestrians. One example of these modifications to the built environment include the addition of curb cuts to allow those with assisstive mobility devices and other mobility impairments to transition from the street the sidewalks. Another example is the addition of tactile paving and bright colors at the curb cuts were designed to assist those with visual impairments at the intersections. However, there is no published research on the impact of the current pedestrian infrastructure and potential modifications that would be conducive and supportive for those with autism or developmental disabilities.

With such improvements, this scientific research project will focus on sidewalk, crosswalk, and intersection design and the pedestrian road behavior, including road crossing, for adults on the autism spectrum. Given that pedestrian skills are the prerequisite skills needed for community integration and for using fixed route public transportation services, if able to identify the potential barriers in pedestrian infrastructure design, modifications would be made possible to the designs that are more conducive to those with autism and other development disabilities.

Selection Criteria

The research team will evaluate the physiological and biomedical impacts of the pedestrian infrastructure system in New Jersey onto adults on the autism spectrum as compared to the control group. Through a series of physiological and biomedical impacts when viewing pedestrian infrastructure in the following environment in a series of 2 dimensional and digitally recorded real world road crossing scenarios.

What's Involved

1. To conduct a comprehensive analysis of the physiological and biomedical impacts of pedestrian road behavior of adults on the autism spectrum as compared to those of a control group

2. To understand the role of perceptual stimuli in road crossing decisions specifically the speed of, distance between, and time to contact of, on-coming cars

3. To understand the effect of virtual and real-world scenarios on road-crossing behavior and decisions in adults with ASD

4. To acquire objective data through eye-tracking and physiological signals of stress on the role of social and non-social distractors on road crossing behaviors

5. To provide scientifically validated barriers and recommendations for modifications that are appropriate and supportive for the individuals on the spectrum to navigate independently or semi-independently, which can impact quality of life

6. To disseminate the findings as well as the supporting research on the current pedestrian environment that has built-in barriers for adults with autism

7. To empower individuals on the autism spectrum and their caregivers to navigate as a pedestrian independently or with supports

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Team Members

Cecilia Feeley
Principal Investigator
(848) 445-2975

Caroline Whyatt
(848) 445-8909

Contact Info
(848) 445-2975
100 Brett Road
Piscataway, NJ 08854