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The Access Board has posted for 60 days of Public Review their Draft Final Outdoor Areas Accessibility Guidelines for developed areas such as campgrounds, picnic areas, etc and also for trails.


arrowSee Comments from other organizations and agencies on Access Board Draft Final Rule of Accessibility Guidelines

arrow Read Comments by American Trails on Draft Final Accessibility Guidelines


Changes proposed for Accessibility Guidelines for trails and recreation on Federal lands


Agencies and organizations have raised several concerns about aspects of the proposed guidelines which seem vague and which may cause problems with compliance.

photo of wheelchair

Evaluating an existing trail for accessibility

by a wheelchair user

The new guidelines contain a number of changes from previous versions which should be noted. The original report of the RegNeg Committee struck a balance between the desire to require full accessibility while recognizing the difficulties of construction in the natural environment.

Trail designers, contractors, and managers should ask themselves how the new Guidelines would affect their ability to comply in a reasonable and cost-effective manner while improving trail accessibility.

In 2007, the Access Board issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) and followed with public hearings. Over 600 comments were received. Comparing the new Guidelines with the previous NPRM, questions have been raised about:


Some requirements not previously included in proposed accessibility guidelines should also be evaluated:

Applying the Guidelines to trails

Trails are defined in F106.5 as a pedestrian route developed primarily for outdoor recreational purposes. A pedestrian route developed primarily to connect elements, spaces, or facilities within a site is not a trail. These provisions require trails to comply with the technical provisions for trails in 1017 when all the following conditions are met:

Changing the overall grade, width, or surface of an existing trail, or rerouting an existing trail are examples of alterations that are required to comply with 1017. Routine or periodic maintenance activities that are performed to return an existing trail to the condition to which the trail was originally designed are not required to comply

Guidelines apply to Federal agencies and others who perform work on Federal lands

The Accessibility Guidelines apply to Federal land management agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and Army Corps of Engineers. The draft final accessibility guidelines also apply to the following non-federal entities that construct or alter facilities on Federal lands on behalf of the Federal government:

How to Submit Comments

Comments should be submitted by December 18th, 2009 using any of the following methods:



The Access Board is required by the Rehabilitation Act to establish minimum accessibility guidelines for facilities covered by the Architectural Barriers Act. After the Access Board publishes the accessibility guidelines for outdoor developed areas, the General Services Administration and Department of Defense will adopt the guidelines as the accessibility standards that Federal agencies are required to use when constructing or altering outdoor developed areas covered by the Architectural Barriers Act.

After a 60 day comment period, the Board will proceed to finalize the guidelines and republish as a final rule based on the public comments received. Additionally, the Access Board is collaborating with the Federal land management agencies to develop a separate technical assistance document to accompany the final rule.



In 1997, the Regulatory Negotiation Committee on Outdoor Recreation Developed Areas was formed by the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board) to develop accessibility recommendations for nationwide application to outdoor-recreation facilities. The intention was to expand the application of earlier legislation, including the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA), to outdoor-recreation facilities.

The committee’s 27 members included representatives from parks and outdoor recreation associations, disability groups, state and Federal land management agencies, and others. ATC was an active participant. The committee met ten times between June 1997 and July 1999. In addition, several working groups convened to gather information or develop recommendations for the full committee, and committee members sought input from the public. Members also examined and discussed approaches used by states and municipalities in developing accessibility guidelines for trails, picnic and camping facilities, and beaches. The committee submitted its report to the Access Board in September 1999.

In 2002, the USDA Forest Service began developing agency-specific guidelines, building on its own work from the early 1990s and integrating the Regulatory Negotiation committee’s report. ATC and A.T. club representatives worked closely with the USFS to develop a pragmatic draft that remained true to providing accessibility while also providing careful consideration for the primitive A.T. environment.

In 2005, the Forest Service Trail Accessibility Guidelines (FSTAG) and the Forest Service Outdoor Recreation Accessibility Guidelines (FSORAG) directives noted above were released for public review and comment. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy and affected clubs submitted formal comments on the proposed guidelines.

In 2006, the Forest Service completed the legal requirements and the FSTAG and FSORAG were adopted and are required to be used on the national-forest system lands. The Forest Service specifications that are equal to or higher than the Access Board’s will remain in place even after the Access Board’s guidelines are final. However, any Forest Service technical specifications that are to a lower standard than the final guidelines put in place by the Access Board will need to be changed. More information and copies of the Forest Service documents are available at

On June 20, 2007, the Access Board issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to establish accessibility guidelines pursuant to the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) for camping facilities, picnic facilities, viewing areas, outdoor recreation access routes, trails, and beach access routes that are constructed or altered by or on behalf of the Federal government. The NPRM was based on a Regulatory Negotiation Committee Report.

Public hearings on the NPRM were held in Denver, CO on July 24, 2007; in Washington, DC on September 6, 2007; and in Indianapolis, IN on September 26, 2007. An information meeting on beach access routes was also held in Washington, DC on July 23, 2008. Over 600 comments were received on the NPRM.

The Access Board prepared a draft of the final accessibility guidelines based on the NPRM and the comments on the NPRM. The Access Board reviewed the draft final accessibility guidelines with the accessibility program managers for the Federal land management agencies. The Access Board is making the draft final accessibility guidelines available for public review to provide an additional opportunity for other interested persons to participate in the rulemaking and comment on the document. After reviewing comments received on the draft final accessibility guidelines, the Access Board issued the accessibility guidelines as a draft final rule.

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