Enhancing Trail Accessibility, Connectivity, and Outdoor Developed Areas with Modern Technologies

This program will provide an overview of the needs and processes surrounding assessments of trails and outdoor constructed features.

by Peter Axelson, Owner, Beneficial Designs, Inc., Brandon Ross, Special Projects Manager, City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department, Nathan Tolbert, Beneficial Designs, Inc.


This program will provide an overview of the needs and processes surrounding assessments of trails and outdoor constructed features. A real world application will be presented and discussed that demonstrates how creek ways are being used to connect communities city-wide and how its trails system has been made more interesting and user friendly through the use of QR Codes and the High Efficiency Trails Assessment Process (HETAP).

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About the Authors

Peter W. Axelson received a B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering and Product Design in 1979 and an M.S.M.E. degree in Smart Product Design in 1982, both from Stanford University. He is the founder (1981) and the Director of Research and Development at Beneficial Designs, Inc., a rehabilitation engineering design firm that works towards universal access through research, design, and education. With funding from various federal agencies, Beneficial Designs developed a system to measure and define outdoor recreation trails (Universal Trail Assessment Process, or UTAP). Beneficial Designs then obtained additional funding to design the computerized High Efficiency Trail Assessment Process (HETAP) and the Developed Outdoor Recreation Assessment Process (DORAP). Trail Access Information, included on trailhead signage that meets Architectural Barriers Act requirements, benefits people with mobility impairments, parents with strollers, hikers with low vision, aging outdoor enthusiasts, and many others. This universal design approach to consumer information also helps inform other companies on how to make technologies more accessible to people with cognitive impairments. Peter Axelson and his staff at Beneficial Designs continue to work on standards for improved accessibility for ski areas, amusement parks, playgrounds and other outdoor recreation environments, as well as design improvements for recreational and fitness equipment for people with mobility impairments. Beneficial Designs has also guided the development of universal design standards for sidewalks and trails across the country. The company has also developed a variety of technologies to improve seating and mobility systems for people who use wheelchairs. Peter has served on the American Trails Board of Directors, and has been a member of standards committees for the Recreation Access Advisory Committee to the U.S. Access Board (U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board) and also the Regulatory Negotiation Committee on Outdoor Developed Area Guidelines. In addition, he is Secretary of the RESNA Standards Committee on Adaptive Ski Equipment, a member of the RESNA Standards Committee on Wheelchairs, a member of the Paralyzed Veterans of American Research Foundation Board of Directors, and a member of the ASTM Playground Surfacing Systems Subcommittee. Peter regularly gives presentations at the annual RESNA and Society of Outdoor Recreation Professionals conferences. He recently presented research about assistive technology for airline travel at the PVA Summit & Expo. He is a regular guest lecturer in the Perspectives in Assistive Technology course at Stanford University. He has taught the trail assessment process at dozens of workshops over the last two decades. Peter is an avid hiker and outdoor enthusiast. He enjoys cross-country and alpine skiing. He likes hiking in his street wheelchair, Cobra, and all-terrain vehicle. He also enjoys kayaking, canoeing, and rafting.

Contact: peter@beneficialdesigns.com

Brandon Ross is a Special Projects Manager for the City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department. He currently manages the planning, land acquisitions, design, and construction of an 85-mile Greenway system along San Antonio’s major waterways. He has also worked on projects related to community planning, land use and residential development. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin, a Masters of Urban Planning from Texas A&M University and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP).

Nathan Tolbert began his Career in the Carson City Assessor's office. After completing the six year project to complete the parcel layer for the City's GIS system, he opened a drafting firm that served clients that included large construction companies, local government agencies and numerous contractors. Nathan's professional experience includes Recreation, Education, Residential and Commercial Construction, Emergency Services and Public Relations. Nathan joined Beneficial Designs, Inc. in 2011 and is responsible for the oversight of Trail projects as well as a FHWA grant funded project to develop an automated process for assessing the Pedestrian Environment as it relates to the US Access Board's Public Rights-of-Way Accessibility Guidelines.

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