by Tip Ray, M.Ed., CTRS
We know through research, anecdotal evidence, and personal experience that people with disabilities benefit greatly when they participate in community recreation programs and settings. Like their peers who may not have disabilities, they learn how to make choices, take turns, follow directions, and share and perform as a team. They learn the same leisure skills and behaviors-although sometimes at a different pace and in a slightly different way. From their peers, they gain respect, are appreciated, are accepted, and, oftentimes, become friends. They learn how to play and have fun in the same activities and places where their peers hangout, and play and have fun.
Outdoor environments offer unique psychological, physiological and spiritual benefits to users. According to the National Survey on Recreation and the Environment (Teasley, et al., 1998), 78 percent of people polled in the United States actively pursue outdoor activities, with camping being identified as one of the most popular.
Families and friends often venture to outdoor recreation areas with the specific intent to picnic. Accessible picnic elements facilitate inclusion and socialization of park visitors. The provision of accessible picnic areas should be a consideration for facility operators. Providing accessible picnic elements such as tables can be an easy process especially since accessible picnic tables come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The U.S. Access Board is currently developing accessibility guidelines for outdoor recreation environments for incorporation into the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) and the Architectural Barriers Act. The guidance set forth in this tech sheet is based on the U.S.
In addition to physical and attitudinal barriers, people with disabilities also encounter barriers in the format in which information is presented. Under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, federally conducted and assisted programs along with programs of state and local government are required to make their programs accessible to people with disabilities as well as provide effective communication. Effective communication means to communicate with people with disabilities as effectively as communicating with others.
A woman walks to the front of the room and begins to communicate in American Sign Language. The hearing participants look at each other in confusion. Worry is displayed on each person's face as they wonder how will they understand the information presented in the class. For many people with visual, auditory, or cognitive impairments, this scenario can be a daily event. Effective communication is essential for an individual to be able to participate and benefit in programs and activities.
Surface is a critical component of an accessible trail. There are two main aspects for consideration regarding accessible trail surfaces. First, the surface must be firm and stable so that the users with disabilities do not expend unnecessary energy that could be used enjoying the trail. Second, there are a variety of surface materials available to enhance accessibility, therefore, the functionality and aesthetics of each product should be considered.