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01.12.2015 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2015 Open Access

BMC Public Health 1/2015

Typology of person-environment fit constellations: a platform addressing accessibility problems in the built environment for people with functional limitations

BMC Public Health > Ausgabe 1/2015
Björn Slaug, Oliver Schilling, Susanne Iwarsson, Gunilla Carlsson
Wichtige Hinweise

Competing interests

In terms of financial interests, BS and SI are the copyright holders and owners of the Housing Enabler (HE) instrument and software, provided as commercial products. The other authors have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

BS conceived of the study and drafted the manuscript. OS carried out the statistical analysis. BS, GC and SI conducted the classification. All authors reviewed several versions of the manuscript, read and approved the final version.

Authors’ information

This study was accomplished within the context of the Centre for Ageing and Supportive Environments (CASE), at Lund University, by funding from the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare (FORTE) and by the Ribbingska Foundation in Lund, Sweden.



Making the built environment accessible for all regardless of functional capacity is an important goal for public health efforts. Considerable impediments to achieving this goal suggest the need for valid measurements of acccessibility and for greater attention to the complexity of person-environment fit issues. To address these needs, this study aimed to provide a methodological platform, useful for further research and instrument development within accessibility research. This was accomplished by the construction of a typology of problematic person-environment fit constellations, utilizing an existing methodology developed to assess and analyze accessibility problems in the built environment.


By means of qualitative review and statistical methods we classified the person-environment fit components covered by an existing application which targets housing accessibility: the Housing Enabler (HE) instrument. The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) was used as a conceptual framework. Qualitative classification principles were based on conceptual similarities and for quantitative analysis of similarities, Principal Component Analysis was carried out.


We present a typology of problematic person-environment fit constellations classified along three dimensions: 1) accessibility problem range and severity 2) aspects of functioning 3) environmental context. As a result of the classification of the HE components, 48 typical person-environment fit constellations were recognised.


The main contribution of this study is the proposed typology of person-environment fit constellations. The typology provides a methodological platform for the identification and quantification of problematic person-environment fit constellations. Its link to the globally accepted ICF classification system facilitates communication within the scientific and health care practice communities. The typology also highlights how relations between aspects of functioning and physical environmental barriers generate typical accessibility problems, and thereby furnishes a reference point for research oriented to how the built environment may be designed to be supportive for activity, participation and health.
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