Executive Summary - Temporary Beach Surface Accessibility Study
Submitted to the National Center on Accessibility
by Edward J. Hamilton, Ph.D.
The purpose of this study was to investigate the utility of various
types of temporary beach surfaces that may provide accessibility to
people with mobility impairments. The objective was to provide information
to managers of beach areas that would allow them to compare the options
regarding temporary surfaces for beach access.
|Volusia County Beach Patrol staff install temporary
surfaces to be tested in research study.
The study was limited to the assessment of seven temporary surface
products that purportedly create effective access for persons with
mobility impairments across the sand to the water's edge: Diamond
Rubber Mat, Ecotrack, Lattice, PATH, Recycled Plastic Lumber, Safety
Deck, and Super Deck. The study focused on consumer perceptions
of the surfaces as well as costs, installation time, and maintenance.
A total of 72 subjects participated in the study. They ranged in
age from 19 to 92 years with a mean age of 50.6 years. The subjects
had a variety of disabilities-no one disability represented more
than 16.7% of the total. Only four subjects (5.6%) did not use an
assistive device. More than half of the subjects (61.5%) used some
type of wheelchair or scooter. A third of the subjects (34.7%) used
either a motorized wheelchair or electric scooter; and another 27.8%
used a manual wheelchair. The majority of subjects functioned independently;
94.4% needed no or minimal assistance in crossing the beach surfaces
and 59.7% reported they did not usually need assistance in physical
Subjects also reported on their beach behaviors. Most subjects (84.7%)
reported they avoided the beach "because it's difficult getting
across the sand." Nearly all subjects (95.8%) indicated they would
visit the beach more often if they could get across the sand more
easily. Independence on the beach was critical to the subjects,
as 70.8% reported that it was important for them to be able to travel
across the beach without assistance.
Four of the surfaces were rated as extremely easy to install: Lattice,
Recycled Plastic Lumber, Diamond Rubber Mat, and PATH. Of these,
Lattice was rated as the easiest. Recycled Plastic Lumber was rated
as one of the easiest surfaces to install despite the fact that
installation time was significantly longer than any other surface.
Two surfaces, Ecotrack and Super Deck, were rated moderately easy
to install; and one, Safety Deck, was rated as extremely difficult
Weekly sand build-up occurred on each the surfaces. The build-up was
easily swept or shoveled (depending on the amount of sand) on all
but one of the surfaces. Ecotrack was reported to be more difficult
to clear due to the indentations in that surface. Erosion around the
edges was a problem for two of the thicker surfaces: Recycled Plastic
Lumber and Super Deck. The drop off caused by the erosion produced
a potential safety problem. Erosion occurred around each of the surfaces
but wasn't as noticeable on the thinner surfaces.
|Study volunteers assess temporary surfaces after being covered by sand from a series of high tides.
After using all of the seven surfaces tested, subjects were asked
to rank the top three surfaces they preferred using. No surface
was selected as first choice by a majority of subjects, though three
of the surfaces (Diamond Rubber Mat, Ecotrack, and Recycled Plastic)
were selected as first, second or third choice by a majority of
subjects. Diamond Rubber Mat was selected first choice by the largest
number of subjects (29.6%) and was also selected as first, second
or third choice by the largest number of subjects (78.7%). Recycled
Plastic was first choice by 22.5% of subjects and was among the
top three choices of 52.1%. Ecotrack was selected as first choice
by only 16.9% of subjects; but it was selected as first, second
or third choice by 78.7% of subjects.
Subjects' overall preferences for surfaces were further explored
through their responses to questions in three major areas of function:
tactual, mobility, and aesthetic. Tactual function was examined
through subject perceptions of surface comfort, roughness, and slipperiness.
There were no significant differences among subjects' perceptions
of the surfaces' slipperiness. Only the uncomfortable ratings for
PATH were significantly different from those of the other surfaces.
PATH was perceived as less comfortable than the other surfaces.
PATH and Safety Deck were rated as significantly rougher than the
Examination of the second area of function, mobility, while important
in itself, also provided insight into subject ratings of tactual function.
Four elements of mobility were examined: stability, control, ease
of movement, and turning. Safety Deck and PATH were rated as significantly
less stable than Recycled Plastic, Ecotrack, and Rubber Mat. PATH
was rated significantly less stable than Safety Deck. There were no
significant differences among the other surfaces on stability. Subjects
perceived that they had less control of their movements on PATH than
on any of the other surfaces except Safety Deck. There was no significant
difference between PATH and Safety Deck, but Safety Deck was perceived
as providing less control than Ecotrack and Lattice. There were no
significant differences among the other surfaces. Ease of movement
was perceived as significantly more difficult for Safety Deck and
PATH than for any of the other surfaces. There was no significant
difference between Safety Deck and PATH. There also were no significant
differences among the other surfaces. Once again, PATH and Safety
Deck were perceived as more difficult to turn on than any of the other
surfaces. There was no significant difference between Safety Deck
and PATH. There also were no significant differences among the other
|Volunteers from ADA survey people with disabilities using temporary beach surfaces.
The surfaces were also rated on their aesthetic qualities. Subjects
were asked to rate each surface on the degree to which they "liked"
how the surface looked and the color of the surface. Subjects were
also asked whether or not they felt each surface "detracted from
the beach atmosphere." Only Safety Deck rated significantly lower
on "looks" and "color". There were no significant differences on
subjects' perceptions of whether or not the surfaces detracted from
Back to top