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NPS Allocates $5 Million to Enhance Accessibility in the Parks

From Access Today, Newsletter of National Center on Accessibility, October 2001

By David Park, Accessibility Program Coordinator, National Park Service

During FY 2001 the National Park Service allocated $5 million under a "special emphasis program" to address the backlog of projects needed to improve access for individuals with disabilities throughout the National Park System. The $5 million was committed from the Service-wide Recreation Fee Demonstration funds. The primary reason for creating this special emphasis fund was that many existing NPS facilities and programs were constructed or established prior to the development of accessibility mandates and standards. Consequently, many NPS buildings, facilities and programs are not as accessible as they should be to the Nation's 54 million citizens with disabilities.

Projects that were considered were additions or enhancements to existing facilities and programs that specifically improve access. New construction and major rehabilitation projects are required by law to be accessible and were not considered in this call. High priority was given to non-fee collecting parks and collecting parks with low revenues. Evaluation criteria for final selection included the following factors:

Projects that improve accessibility for individuals with disabilities to the wide range of opportunities offered to the visiting public and employees; to do what is feasible to enable them to receive as close to the same benefits as those received by others; Projects that provide rehabilitation, upgrade or enhancements of existing infrastructure in order to improve accessibility; Projects that provide rehabilitation, upgrade or enhancements of existing interpretive media, programs or equipment to improve accessibility; Projects that are based on an assessment of park accessibility barriers, address high priority needs and provide assurances they will conform to current standards, regulations and guidelines; and Projects that work in partnership with private and non-profit organizations to create a more accessible park experience.

The response to this call was enormous with over $25 million worth of projects submitted. Each of the seven regional offices initially reviewed the projects submitted within their regions and selected up to $2 million of requests for final consideration. A national review committee then pared that $14 million worth of projects down to the $5 million available. After careful consideration, a total of 120 projects were funded, for a total of $5,018,000.

Consequently, the breakdown of approved projects included: 67 projects related to buildings and structures; 16 projects related to outdoor recreation facilities; 35 projects related to enhanced interpretation and education programs; and, 2 projects related to improved transportation systems.

A sample of NPS projects slated to improve access for visitors with disabilities:

  • Rebuild amphitheater at Fort Laramie
  • Upgrade interpretive opportunities at Boca Negra Canyon
  • Rehabilitate accessible entrances to Ford's Theatre
  • Construct accessible entrance to USS Cassin Young
  • Install wheelchair lifts for trolleys at Lowell NHP
  • Develop tactile maps of Mojave National Perserve
  • Create battlefield audio tour at Kings Mountain NMP

For more information on this program, contact David Park, NPS Accessibility Program Coordinator, National Park Service, 1849 C Street NW, Washington D.C. 20240.

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