Access Today: June/July 2011

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

National Center on Accessibility instructors were in Camp Verde, Arizona last week to present an innovative new training program to National Park Service personnel from the Intermountain Region. The course was developed out of a special request from Karen Breslin, the Regional Accessibility Coordinator. Karen wanted park personnel trained so they may conduct accessibility assessments of their own facilities and initiate the work-order and special funding requests. Students in the course represented a range of parks and facility management responsibilities. Students prepared in advance by completing coursework online prior to the 3-day on-site program. Advance homework included review of park documents recommending accessibility improvements such as general management plans, cultural resource plans, historic structures reports and long range interpretive plans. In Camp Verde, students were able to gain valuable information from the NCA instructional team with an instructor-guided assessment at Montezuma Castle National Monument. The 113 degree heat didn’t deter students from further practicing their assessment skills on their own the following day at Montezuma Well. Now back at their respective duty-stations, students have identified access improvement goals for the coming months and will utilize NCA instructors as mentors through the process of assessment and planning.

June definitely was a month for hot NCA training. Park and recreation practitioners from around the country gathered in St. Louis for the NCA training course, Accessibility Management in Parks, Recreation and Tourism. In addition to sessions lead by NCA instructors, a special presentation was made by Jerry Kerr, President and Founder of the Seg4Vets, which has awarded more than 700 Segways to service members severely injured and permanently disabled while serving in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Kerr spoke on the new DOJ regulations addressing other powered mobility devices included in the 2010 revisions to the Americans with Disabilities Act. Students also had the opportunity to put their new knowledge to work with a field exercise at the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (aka. The Arch).   Announcement of the 2012 NCA Training Calendar will be made later this summer through this newsletter.

NCA Staff Assess PA Parks and Make a Visit to the Site of Flight 93

In May, the NCA Accessibility Specialists, Alice Voigt, Nikki Montembeault, Jeff Townsend, Michelle Cook and Brent Wells were in Pennsylvania conducting accessibility assessments at Allegheny Portage Railroad  National Historic Site, Johnstown Flood National Memorial, Friendship Hill National Historic Site, and Fort Necessity National Battlefield. During the trip, the accessibility specialists got a rare behind the scenes tour of construction of the visitor center at the new Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville. Phase I of the memorial is scheduled to be dedicated this year on the 10th anniversary of September 11th. “The temporary visitor center is a small space, but it holds a wealth of emotions in the form of items left along the fence in memory of the passengers and crew,” says Nikki Montembeault. “We were able to review the site plans and construction.” The visitor shelter at the arrival court will have floor to ceiling windows to allow for indoor viewing year-round. A special area has been designed for the families to pay their respects in solitude at the Sacred Ground. “It provokes an incredibly, indescribable gamut of emotions,” says Montembeault. More information about the design, construction updates and dedication are available through the memorial web site: www.nps.gov/flni

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. Read the full report >

World Health Organization Releases First-ever Report on Disability

On June 9, the World Health Organization released its first-ever Report on Disability and revealed new global estimates that more than one billion people experience some form of disability. The new research shows that almost one-fifth of the estimated global total of persons living with disabilities, or between 110-190 million, encounter significant difficulties. The report stresses that few countries have adequate mechanisms in place to respond to the needs of people with disabilities. Barriers include stigma and discrimination; lack of adequate health care and rehabilitation services; inaccessible transportation; buildings; information and communication technologies. As a result, people with disabilities experience poorer health, lower educational achievements, fewer economic opportunities and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities. Read more >

New Universal Design Web Site Launched

Longtime advocate for Universal Design and nationally renowned architect, John Salmen, has launched the new and improved universaldesign.com. The purpose of the site is to serve as a philanthropic portal of information, commerce, and professional networking for the entire Universal Design industry. The goal is to provide a web site where products and services can be offered, success stories can be shared and engaging discussions can focus on Universal Design. Salmen says the design of the site allows users to see the broader and narrower context of the items of their interest. Read the web site’s first feature by Jenny Sullivan, “Is Universal Design the Next Big Thing?

Shared Use Paths Taking Center Stage in Accessibility Standards Development and New Initiative Encouraging Play

Are you designing a new pathway system? Shared use paths have become a popular topic of discussion, among them--use as non-motorized means to connect people to community destinations, opportunities for play, the need for accessibility standards. As you develop design plans, be sure to follow upcoming rulemaking and a creative new initiative.

In March, the U.S. Access Board released an advance notice of rulemaking on its intent to develop accessibility standards for shared use paths. The Access Board will continue to receive comments from the public as it embarks on this rulemaking process.

American Trails, Playcore and the Natural Learning Initiative at North Carolina State University have also teamed up to create greater awareness and demonstrate opportunities for play on shared use paths. Coined as “an innovative way to bring play into nature,” Pathways for Play project provides resources and case studies for park and recreation practitioners on how they may incorporate play pockets along trails for inclusive, healthy outdoor recreation opportunities. A webinar was hosted in June featuring Robin Moore, internationally known for his teachings on universal design in landscape architecture. Design examples and other resources are available through the Pathways web site.