R-2: Time Use among People with Disabilities


Research to date has highlighted the importance of a variety of factors on the community living experiences and participation of people with disabilities, including employment, transportation, physical access and secondary conditions.

Employment for persons with disabilities, in particular, has been linked to increased visibility in the community, increased happiness and independence, and a larger social network, all of which may contribute to increased continuity of community living, and increased community participation.

Participation, functional status and environmental factors have been linked in disability research literature for over 30 years, but were codified only in the last decade. This advancement in understanding disability has led to very productive lines of research that have only begun to unravel the complicated relationship among participation, individual, and environmental characteristics.

Still, little is known about how participation varies between disabled and non-disabled populations and between sub-populations of people with disabilities.    

Purpose of the Study

We will examine time use characteristics reported by people with and without disabilities and by sub-populations of people with disabilities to understand factors associated with community living in a population-based sample. This data has been reported on the American Time Use Survey (ATUS).

A very simple metric for understanding how people live and work in their community is the amount of time they spend engaging in community-based activities (e.g., employment, recreation, civic participation), as well as where they go, and with whom they engage in activities (e.g., with co-workers versus alone).

In a systematic review of the literature on measuring participation conducted in our MICL Project, Tom Seekins and his colleagues recommended that measures of participation should also assess the content of an activity. 

The American Time Use Survey (ATUS) meets these standards with a large population by reporting the time spent in a range of activities. This extraordinary dataset is unique in providing population-based data on participation of people with and without disabilities. This allows for quantifying participation across and between groups of individuals with various impairments, and between people with and without disabilities. 

Such data can help establish norms, identify discrepancies, and help understand factors contributing to discrepancies. Moreover, these data are longitudinal, allowing for prospective studies.  

Anticipated Benefits

We anticipate results from this study will inform policy and practice by specifying important differences among subpopulations associated with time spent in the community. Results may provide important new information regarding the association between employment and community engagement (e.g., time spent in community activities) that will highlight the importance of employment to the lives of people with disabilities.

Results from this study will also be used to develop the R9: Home Usability for People with Disabilities advocacy intervention in the housing accessibility advocacy study to highlight for stakeholders the variations in how people with disabilities use their time based on environmental factors like access to public transportation.

Methods and Hypotheses

This study will add to the literature by (1) pioneering the ATUS as a tool to better  understand community participation of people with disabilities, (2) documenting how people with disabilities spend their time, (3) comparing and contrasting time use between people with and without disabilities, as well as between subgroups of disability, and (4) providing important information about time use to determine which policies and practices could be changed to improve community participation and continuity of community living for people with disabilities. 

To date, there have been no studies to examine how people with disabilities spend their time, especially in relationship to community participation. This study will test hypotheses to provide a wide range of understanding related to this topic, especially related to the association between employment and community participation. 

Specific primary hypotheses include:

  1. People with disabilities who are employed report significantly more time engaged in non-work related community activities than those who are not employed.
  2. People with disabilities who are not employed spend significantly more time at home alone watching TV (i.e., are more isolated) than their employed counterparts.
  3. Availability of personal transportation is highly related to time spent in community activities. 
  4. People with disabilities living in non-metro areas will report more time at home alone than their metropolitan counterparts.

More Information about the Design of the Research

Sample, Data Collection and Measurement, Data Analysis

Project Investigators: Craig Ravesloot, PhD, Tom Seekins, PhD, Catherine Ipsen, PhD, Andrew Myers, Lillie Greiman