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.
While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 has led to greater access to employment, transportation, public services and public accommodations for people with disabilities, some of the esoteric regulations related to program access have been more challenging to apply to public park and recreation settings. For the practitioner, it has not been easy to translate the abstract concept of “program access” into practice. Federal accessibility standards for buildings and facilities exist and continue to evolve with very specific scoping and technical provisions. These standards can be applied to the design and construction of recreation facilities, visitor centers and even outdoor areas for recreation. However, the requirements for “program access” under Title II of the ADA are not as specific. This often leaves park and recreation professionals to their own accord to make programmatic and administrative decisions based on what information is readily available to them at the time. The “program access” standard requires entities to either modify their policies, practices and procedures, or provide auxiliary aids and services to ensure access for people with disabilities. Program access includes access to goods, services, activities or any other offering of a federal, state and local government or business. “Programs” under the program access standard do not necessarily have to be structured or staffed. Programs could range from structured and staffed tennis lessons to an unstructured walk along a nature trail with wayside exhibits. While federal technical assistance materials provide some examples of program access for guidance, the concept of program access is still quite abstract. Moreover, what constitutes accessible “programs” or the “best practice” to ensure persons with disabilities will have equal access to recreation and leisure programs, has Best Practices of Accessibility in Parks and Recreation become increasingly more complex and difficult to ascertain, as the demand for inclusive recreation programs continues to grow. Best practices in accessibility, as defined for the purposes of this study, are: those common, identifiable procedures, attitudes and behaviors, which exceed the minimum standard represented in the practice and delivery of accessible recreation programs and facilities.
Published May 2008