Visitor Expectations and Perceptions of Program and Physical Accessibility in the National Park Service

Prepared for the National Center on Accessibility

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.

by Rachel J. C. Chen, PhD



published November 01, 2001

Several studies have been written about the trip characteristics of state/national park users. However, very little has been done about the behaviors, perceptions, motivations, and expectations of park visitors with disabilities. During spring (2001), the National Center on Accessibility/National Park Service sponsored a study of national park visitors with disabilities. 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. This study interviewed a minimum total of 50 visitors with disabilities (a minimum of 10 at each park included in the study). The research met the following objectives:

  • Collect data on park physical and programmatic accessibility; perceptions on accessibility and barriers to participation by visitors with disabilities,
  • Generate suggestions and recommendations that visitors with disabilities may have that would make a visit to the national park enjoyable,
  • Compile trip-related data (e.g., sources of information used, nights away from home, and the benefits associated with a visit, etc.) from opinions of visitors with disabilities, and
  • Provide information for better understanding, planning, development, and maintenance in outdoor developed areas based on the needs of visitors with disabilities.