Access Today: June/July 2011

From Tape Measure to Transition Plan: NCA Trains Intermountain Region on Accessibility Assessment Process for National Parks

News Release: First Year Findings on the Accessibility of Playground Surfaces Published

May 24, 2011


First Year Findings on the Accessibility of Playground Surfaces Published

Do playground surfaces remain accessible for people with disabilities over time? A research team at the National Center on Accessibility (NCA) at Indiana University is attempting to answer that question. The first year findings from a longitudinal study on the installation and maintenance of accessible playground surfaces reveal there is no perfect playground surface. The NCA study, which is being funded by the U.S. Access Board, is examining the performance of various types of surfacing materials at 25 newly constructed playgrounds, including poured-in-place rubber, engineered wood fiber, rubber tiles, and hybrid surface systems.

Access Today: May 2011

Expert White Papers on Exhibit Design for People with Low Vision Published


 Visitors touch a bronze tactile model of the island and Pearl Harbor.

Visitors examine the tactile model of Pearl Harbor at the visitor center in preparation to visit the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial.

White papers on exhibit design for people with low vision have been published as a result of a conference workshop conducted by the National Center on Accessibility in cooperation with the U.S. Access Board and the National Park Service. The four papers, written by leading national experts, discuss exhibit design issues and operational considerations for people who are blind and people who have low vision. The project Summary Report describes the global issues from visitor expectations for independence to tactile experiences and staff training.  The expert papers include:

What Visitors with Vision Loss Want Museums and Parks to Know about Effective Communication by Beth Ziebarth, Director of the Accessibility Program at the Smithsonian Institution.
Tactile Mapping for Cultural and Entertainment Venues by Steven Landau, President of Touch Graphics, Inc.
Current Media Technology, Appropriate Application of Technology, Future Research Needs by Larry Goldberg, Director of the Media Access Group at WGBH.

NCA Staff Make Trek to Everglades


A man sets a digital level down on the rocky ruin-lined trail.

NCA Intern Brent Wells measures the running slope along a trail to the ruins at Tuzigoot National Monument.

While many were on spring break in March, the NCA team was hard at work in South Florida. A special request was received from Everglades National Park to conduct an accessibility assessment of major visitor use facilities and programs within the park. In addition to the accessibility assessment of the Everglades, recent site visits and assessments for NCA staff have included Weir Farm National Historic Site (Wilton, CT), the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site (Hogenville, KY), Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site (La Junta, CO), Petroglyph National Monument (Albuquerque, NM), Catoctin Mountain Park (Thurmont, MD), the Martin Luther King National Historic Site (Atlanta, GA), Tuzigoot and Montezuma Castle National Monuments (Camp Verde, AZ). 


The assessments give park personnel the opportunity to ask NCA staff in depth questions on ways to improve visitor access. According to NCA Accessibility Specialist, Jeff Townsend, “The park personnel were very interested in getting feedback regarding their renovations to the visitor center and exhibit space currently in progress. We are excited to return in June when we will be conducting a training course for the Intermountain Region and have the chance to see the completed project.”


Iraq War Veteran Speaks to Indiana University Community as Part of Disability Awareness Month


Photo of Josh Bleill wearing Indianapolis Colts shirt, holding football and leaning against Colts goal post.  Bleill's shorts reveal prosthetics on both legs.
 Indianapolis Colts Community Spokesperson and Iraq war veteran Josh Bleill on the cover of his new book, “One Step at a Time.”

The Indiana University Disability Roundtable hosted Josh Bleill, Iraq war veteran and Indianapolis Colts community spokesperson, on March 22 as part of Disability Awareness Month on the Big Ten campus.  Bleill's inspirational talk discussed his "one bad day," when on October 15, 2006, an improvised explosive device (IED) struck his vehicle while he and other Marines were on combat patrol in Fallujah, Iraq.  Bleill awoke five days later in Germany to learn that two of his friends had been killed and that both of his legs had been amputated.

With a lot of hard work and determination, Bleill recovered after 22 months rehabilitating at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. His time spent at Walter Reed included an excursion to see the Indianapolis Colts play the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl and a follow up visit from the team. During the Colts visit to Walter Reed, team owner, Jim Irsay, requested Bleill come see him after his rehabilitation to discuss job opportunities. That he did. Bleill was brought into the NFL franchise to speak to community groups around the state regarding personal challenges, leadership, team work and being a good citizen. Bleill recently published his first book “One Step at a Time, A Young Marine’s Story of Courage, Hope and a New Life in the NFL.” In the book and through his public appearances, Bleill frankly discusses the experience of acquiring a disability. But it is his charm, good sense of humor and easy going personality that suggests Bleill may soon be well sought after beyond Indianapolis as a national speaker.


Wheeled Mobility Devices: New Regulations and Litigation Roll Forward

In the newly revised regulations for Title II and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the U.S. Department of Justice seeks to clarify the definitions and distinguish between wheelchairs and “other power-driven mobility devices.” Use of both must be open to all areas that are also open for pedestrians. However, use of “other power-driven mobility devices” might be different if the covered entity can demonstrate such use would fundamentally alter its programs, services, or activities, create a direct threat, or create a safety hazard. For parks, recreation and tourism, this means facility owners and land managers should 1) become familiar with the revised regulations; 2) develop a policy on the use of wheeled and other power-driven mobility devices specific to the facility and/or land use area; while 3) openly communicating the policy to the public via web sites, brochures, signs and other materials.
To become more familiar with the revised regulations, consider accessing the webinar archive “Other Power-Driven Mobility Devices” hosted by American Trails earlier this year. In the session, Janet Zeller, USDA Forest Service, gives excellent examples of other power-driven mobility devices often used in the outdoors and the unique policy issues that may arise. An American Trails fact sheet on other power-driven mobility devices also accompanies the webinar.
Even with the new regulations, the litigation regarding other power-driven mobility devices has not necessarily come to a screeching halt, specifically when it comes to use of the Segways. A class-action lawsuit against Walt Disney World regarding its policy toward Segway use was order to settlement in April in U.S. District Court. In this case, the court does not agree with DOJ’s regulations specific to Segways and has sided with Walt Disney World blanket ban of the device on all properties. To read Judge Presnell’s ruling, see Mahala Ault, Stacie Rhea and Dan Wallace vs. Walt Disney World, Co, case no: 6:07-cv-1785-Orl-31KRS.

Exhibit Design Relating to Low Vision and Blindness Summary Report

Download PDF

January 2011


Historically, museums have displayed their collections for the visiting public primarily through visual means. Most often the objects are located behind glass or other barriers; and if not, clearly the message is to “look and not touch”. While audio tours have been a recent addition to the museum scene, the absence of descriptive information about the objects or exhibits themselves have proved inaccessible to for persons with visual impairments and do not provide an equivalent experience that is available to the sighted public.

Awaiting Outdoor Accessibility Standards: Trail Building at Shaver’s Creek

by Donica Conseen and Nikki Montembeault


In July 2007, the United States Access Board issued the Notice of Proposed Rule Making Guidelines for Federal Outdoor Developed Areas, which in 2009 then became the Draft Final Guidelines for Outdoor Developed Areas and were made available for comment until December 2009. While these guidelines have not yet reached their final status they are recommended as best practices, and are designed to encourage entities to address accessibility concerns within the realm of the outdoors. The specific outdoor areas that are covered by the Draft Final Outdoor guidelines include: camping facilities, picnic facilities, viewing areas, outdoor recreation access routes, trailheads, trails, and beach access routes. As it pertains to this article, the guidelines provided the parameters for the design and construction of the Shaver’s Creek trail. 



Students on trail.

School students utilizing the new accessible trail at Shaver's Creek.

When Brian Sedgwick, Building Services Coordinator for Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center, first heard the National Center on Accessibility (NCA) was offering training last spring in San Antonio, he was thrilled at the opportunity to attend.   Sedgwick’s anticipation to attend an NCA training course was sparked by an upcoming project to design a new accessible trail at Shaver’s Creek. The outdoor center at The Pennsylvania State University provides a variety of educational and recreational opportunities ranging from tours, trails, discovery rooms, a boardwalk and gardens. The center conducts programing for children and the community within the Stone Valley Recreation Area in central Pennsylvania.  Going into the training Sedgwick was not only hoping to gain insight on how to best approach the project, but also how he could create awareness of the principles of universal design with the project team and among staff.  While attending the training Sedgwick learned that there are many factors which affect the accessibility of a trail. Physical elements such as the firmness and stability of the trail surface were discussed, in addition to programmatic elements such as providing tactile elements along the trail. Tactile elements not only enhance the experience offered but provide a more accessible experience to those visitors with low vision or who are blind, visitors with cognitive impairments, and in the spirit of universal design, children at various levels of development.  When Sedgwick returned home, he started examining the Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center from an accessibility standpoint in addition to Shaver’s Creek Trail.  Recognizing the importance of the principles of universal design, he began to educate both his co-workers and the students he teaches at Penn State on the principles in hopes that they would be put into practice.

ASTM Ballot for Playground Surface Field Test Withdrawn, Texas School Settles on Playground Surface Complaint

by Jennifer Skulski, CPSI
While the factions of the ASTM F08.63 Subcommittee on Playground Surfaces were debating the merits of a field test to determine the firmness and stability of playground surfaces as they relate to accessibility, the Leander Independent School District (LISD) was negotiating an out of court settlement regarding one of their 22 elementary school playgrounds.