Home Experiences


While much research on community participation has focused on public access, ourSmall clip art house private homes are also an integral part of our community lives. People with disabilities spend a large proportion of their time at home. It is where they prepare for our day, where we sleep, bathe, dress, and eat among other activities. Home matters because it facilitates community participation.

Home is place that should be safe and secure; a place of rest and relaxation; a place where we recharge our bodies and minds. However, the common design of homes is often not suited to the needs of people with disabilities. Such a lack of appropriate home design impacts people’s lives, particularly if they must exert more energy cooking, cleaning, or bathing among other home activities than they would if their homes accommodated their abilities. Unfortunately, there is little data about how people with disabilities experience their homes. We used data from a Health and Home Survey to examine the different home experiences of people with disabilities in an effort to begin to reveal how home is important.


The sample for this analysis includes participants who answered “yes” to at least one of the American Community Survey (ACS) impairment questions. Of the 173 respondents who returned a survey, 26 reported having no impairment and 3 did not answer. Thus, these 29 individuals were excluded from this analysis, leaving a sample size of 144 individuals. Impairment characteristics for this sample are included in table 1. More information about this sample can be found here.

Table 1
Percentage of sample reporting each impairment type

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Note the sum of individuals reporting impairment will not match the total N as respondents could mark more than one impairment.
Sample Demographics

  • Average Age: 60
  • 65% White, 24% African American, 6% Asian, 3% American Indian, 2% Other
  • 65% Female, 35% Male
  • 26% Married, 26% Divorced, 21% Widowed
  • 35% Live Alone
  • 22% HS or GED, 36% Some College, 12% Bachelor’s Degree, 10% Master’s Degree or Higher
  • 84% Not Employed, 7% Employed Part-Time, 9% Employed Full-Time (30 hours/week or more)
  • 32% family income of $10k or less, 24% family income of $10k-$20k
  • 47% Own, 44% Rent their home


We worked with a team of researchers and community partners to develop a survey that gathers information about home characteristics, home usability experiences and demographics. More information about the Health and Home Survey can be found here.

Home Experiences: Ease, Safety, Satisfaction and Exertion
Home experiences were rated across three domains: ease, safety and satisfaction. Each domain was queried separately across a core set of home areas (e.g., safety items we grouped together). Respondents indicated on a scale from 1-5 how easy it was, how satisfied they were, and how safe they felt conducting activities throughout their home. People also indicated on a scale from 0-10 how much exertion they used conducting these same activities in their home.


People with disabilities report cleaning, preparing food, showering/bathing, and using storage spaces as the least easy, least safe, and least satisfactory activities within their homes. Similarly, these activities are also ranked as requiring more exertion than others. Table 1 shows the mean and raw score and the percentage of total score that the mean represents for the home experience variables.

Table 1. Average rating of experiences throughout the home

Home experiences table 2







Taking each of the experience domains as a subscale, we computed coefficient alpha for each subscale.  For the "ease" subscale across home areas, coefficient alpha = .92; for satisfaction it was .93, for safety it was .94 and for exertion it was .91 indicating that each subscale demonstrated good internal consistency.

These results show the variability and potential covariance of satisfaction ratings throughout the home are related to safety and ease ratings. Exertion levels throughout the home are negatively related with safety, satisfaction, and ease of entering/exiting the home, using storage areas, and preparing food. Exertion while bathing is also negatively related to safety, satisfaction, and ease of bathing.

Based on the observation that these ratings are related to each other, we computed an exploratory factor analysis of them to examine the underlying factor structure of the ratings. Table 2 includes the rotated factor matrix for all items. Four factors emerged in this analysis. Items in the first component were most highly related to the safety and satisfaction people reported with their experiences of the living room and bedroom. The items on the second component reflected their ease, safety and satisfaction of using their bathroom. The third component included their experiences with preparing meals and using storage and the last component reflected their experience with entering and exiting their home. For each of the last three components, greater ease, satisfaction and safety were associated with less exertion.

Table 2. Rotated Component Matrix of home experiences


Note: Extraction Method – Principle Component Analysis, Rotation Method – Varimax with Kaiser Normalization, rotation converged in 7 iterations.


Exertion may be an important factor in understanding the home experiences of people with disabilities. Results suggest that exertion is negatively correlated with the ease, safety, and satisfaction of important activities such as entering and exiting the home, preparing food, and bathing. The more people exerted themselves in their home, the more negatively they rated their home experience. This is concerning for people with disabilities who may have greater energy-related constraints to their community participation. Such constraints may be due to impairment, health or some combination thereof. Hence, having the most usable home is important to avoid inefficient use of energy.
These results also indicate that safety experiences are positively correlated with satisfaction suggesting that when people feel their home provides them with a sense of security and shelter, they may be more satisfied with their home.
These results may have implications for community participation of people with disabilities. People with disabilities encounter problematic physical characteristics in their homes. These problematic characteristics, in conjunction with increased exertion and negative experiences in the home, may combine to adversely influence one’s ability and desire to participate in the community. When more energy is used in the home to overcome physical barriers to accomplish daily tasks less energy is available for participation outside the home.

State of the Science Webinar - 6/22/2016