On September 26th the U.S. Forest Service released the agency’s 2013 Accessibility Guidebook on Outdoor Recreation and Trails that updates the agency’s direction on providing recreational opportunities accessible to everyone.
The Outdoor Recreation Accessibility Guidelines and the Trail Accessibility Guidelines publications address how the USFS provides accessible recreational opportunities as intended by the Architectural Barriers Act if 1968 and standards set by the U.S. Access Board.
Together, these publications provide guidance to maximize accessibility while protecting the unique characteristics of the natural setting of outdoor recreation areas and trails. The guidelines require all new or altered camping units, picnic areas, scenic overlooks, beaches, hiking trails and more to comply with this accessibility direction.
The release of the publications coincides with the new outdoor guidelines by the U.S. Access Board, an independent federal agency whose primary mission is accessibility for people with disabilities. The agency worked closely with the board on the development of the guidelines.
Identifying ways to improves access to parks, refuges and public lands is a component of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative. The largest majority of the people— about 56.7 million or 19 percent of the population— have a disability with more than half of them reporting the disability as severe, according to 2010 U.S. Census Bureau statistics. The USFS has more than 23,000 accessible recreation units, such as campsites and picnic areas, and 8,000 accessible recreation buildings.
“It is accessibility integrated into the outdoors without changing the setting or the outdoor experience,” said Janet Zeller, Forest Service National Accessibility Program Manager. “We don’t call them accessible trails, which make one think of flat and paved paths. Instead trails that comply with the accessibility guidelines look like other trails that blend into the setting, but with a sustainable firm, stable surface and, where the terrain allows, grades that provide easier passage.”
If you are not concerned with legal technicalities and simply want to build the most accessible trail under your physical constraints, the above guidebook will do. You can also contact the USFS accessibility coordinator for your region for additional suggestions.
Published September 26, 2013
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.
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.