While notable advancements have been made, much is needed to break down the barriers and embrace greater inclusivity. Parks, programs, and leaders across the service need more education, guidance, support, and resources to create more welcoming experiences for a broad spectrum of audiences.
Visitors of all levels of ability are drawn to our national parks. When they arrive, we hope they engage with the rich collection of stories and resources that reflect our national heritage and diversity. In their daily work supporting our mission, employees plan, design, build, and support facilities and programs aimed at enhancing the visitors’ understanding, safety, comfort, and enjoyment of park resources. Along the way, a series of choices and trade-offs are made ranging from material, media type, and cost to aesthetics and presentation, which can impact access levels for visitors with disabilities. Implicit in the National Park Service mission is that all members of our visiting public are afforded access to our significant sites and the stories within. Knowing that only a coordinated approach to a challenge of this magnitude would work, Director’s Order 42 was released to set the National Park Service on a path of continuous improvement.
While outstanding projects have been completed since, many programs, facilities, and services fall short of carrying out this goal. Why? In general, collective awareness and organizational commitment to make significant cultural changes across the park system have drifted as additional priorities have arisen and public expectations have shifted. This lack of continued, focused attention to address and correct known accessibility problems has inhibited our progress, and remains frustrating to our visitors, staffs, and stakeholders.
As a result of frequent inquiries regarding best practices from practitioners, NCA initiated this research study in order to ascertain which practices in the field of parks and recreation accessibility management exceed the minimum standards set forth by the ADA and other disability-related legislation.
The purpose of the study was to identify the perceptions of people with disabilities relative to program and physical accessibility in the National Park Service.
The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board), are issuing a final rule that amends the Architectural Barriers Act Accessibility Guidelines by adding scoping and technical requirements for camping facilities, picnic facilities, viewing areas, trails, and beach access routes constructed or altered by or on behalf of federal agencies. The final rule ensures that these facilities are readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.