Access Today: January 2011

Lava Beds Maintenance Crew Re-Engineers CCC Picnic Tables

Built in 1933 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), several picnic tables located within Lava Beds National Monument recently required restoration in order to replace the top, wood surface which had slowly deteriorated over the years. According to Don Bowen, Chief of Maintenance, it was typical for the park to replace the table tops every 15-20 years, but it became apparent during the most recent restoration that accessible tables would need to be provided. Read more >


ASTM Ballot for Playground Surface Field Test Withdrawn, Texas School Settles on Playground Surface Complaint

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. Read more >


Integrating Sustainable and Universal Design: A New Approach to Achieving Excellence

For Yellowstone National Park, the decision to incorporate both sustainable design as well as accessible features when it came time replace the almost 40 year old visitor center at Old Faithful seemed a natural choice and provides an example for others to follow when considering the construction or remodel of an existing facility. Read more >


NCA Spring Training Calendar is Set

NCA will be hosting two open registration courses this spring, Retrofitting for Accessibility and Accessibility Management in Parks, Recreation and Tourism. The Retrofit course will be held on the Indiana University campus, while the Accessibility Management course will be held in St. Louis. For the first time, NCA is offering early bird discounts with $55 off the standard registration fee for those received before February 15. The early bird discount is a great opportunity to take advantage of training particularly during times with reduced budgets for professional development.


In December, NCA presented a one-day accessibility compliance module as part of the National Park Service Facility Management Leadership Program (FMLP). The module was set into a larger 3-day compliance course covering all federal compliance laws from environmental protection to historic preservation. The FMLP is a two-year employee development program for individuals in facility operations with aspirations to grow into leadership roles throughout the Service. This is the third year accessibility compliance with instruction from NCA has been a major part of the curriculum.


In addition to the open registration courses and specialty training modules, NCA has partnered with the National Park Service Intermountain Region (IMR) to offer a new course aimed at teaching park teams how to conduct assessments, process findings and develop working transition plans. Participants will meet in Arizona in June to learn the techniques for conducting accessibility assessments at theirs and neighboring parks. In addition, they will learn the process for detailing corrective actions through work orders, making program requests for funding and developing a planning process for barrier removal within their park.


NCA & NPS Work to Expand Accessibility Assessments of Parks

Three years ago, NCA initiated a pilot project conducting accessibility assessments at 12 small National Parks throughout the United States. The pilot was so successful that the project has been expanded to 40 small-to-mid size national parks for 2010-2011. “Our focus is on the visitor experience,” says Alice Voigt, NCA Accessibility Specialist, who is leading the project. “While an AE firm might go in and only look at the buildings and structures, NCA focuses on the programs offered, and what corrective actions are necessary for visitors with disabilities to benefit from the total park experience.”


Park assessments over the fall and winter months have included national parks that were once homes to presidents including the Abraham Lincoln Boyhood, Harry S. Truman, and William Howard Taft National Historic Sites. Other sites have included the Arlington House --the Robert E. Lee Memorial, Manassas and Cowpens National Battlefields, the Carl Sandburg Home and the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park.


“The NCA assessments start with program access,” says NCA Executive Director Dr. Sherrill York. “The NCA assessments aren’t all about measuring parking space, routes and bathrooms. It starts with program access. What is the program? What is the intended visitor experience? What is the story? What is it that park personnel want all guests to learn, experience and take with them as a memory from their park visit?”


Nikki Montembeault, one of NCA’s four Accessibility Specialists, comments “The greatest personal reward of this job comes from facilitating progressive change within the field of recreation; seeing park staff illuminate when they “get it” [the accessibility connection] and watching their thought processes evolve from the time we get there through to transition planning is an incredible feeling.”

Montembeault is a graduate of the Department of Recreation, Parks and Tourism Studies at Indiana University, home of the National Center on Accessibility. “Coming from a background in both the outdoors and recreational sports, I knew that traveling to parks to conduct assessments would be one of my favorite parts of this job. What I didn’t anticipate, was there being such a large, unexplored world of new experiences and learning opportunities [through the projects with land management agencies such as the National Park Service]. Not many jobs simultaneously provide you the opportunity to experience all of this as the teacher, the student and as a leader.”