Does the built environment moderate the relationship between having a disability and lower levels of physical activity?
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The relationship between the built environment and physical activity has been well documented. However, little is known about how the built environment affects physical activity among people with disabilities, who have disproportionately higher rates of physical inactivity and obesity. This study is the first systematic review to examine the role of the built environment as a moderator of the relationship between having a disability (physical, sensory or cognitive) and lower levels of physical activity. After conducting an extensive search of the literature published between 1990 and 2015, 2039 articles were screened, 126 were evaluated by abstract and 66 by full text for eligibility in the review. Data were abstracted using a predefined coding guide and synthesized from both qualitative and quantitative studies to examine evidence of moderation. Nine quantitative and six qualitative articles met the inclusion criteria. Results showed that most research to date has been on older adults with physical disabilities. People with disabilities described how aspects of the built environment affect neighborhood walking, suggesting a positive moderating role of features related to safety and aesthetic qualities, such as benches, lighting and stop light timing. There were mixed results among studies that examined the relationship quantitatively. Most of the studies were not designed to appropriately examine moderation. Future research should utilize valid and reliable built environment measures that are more specific to disability and should include people with and without disabilities to allow for testing of moderation of the built environment.