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  Access Today: Fall 1997 issue

Access Today, Fall 1997

Inside this issue:

NCA hosts symposium on playground access

The National Center on Accessibility hosted a Playground Access Symposium,  September 8-10, at Bradford Woods, Martinsville, Indiana.  Approximately 40 park and recreation professionals from throughout the Midwest and as far as Maryland, Utah, and Nebraska attended the 2 1/2 day training course.  Seven of the largest playground equipment and surface manufacturers sponsored the training course including: Landscape Structures, GameTime, Miracle Recreation Equipment, Playworld Systems, Zeager Hardwood, Little Tikes and Spectra Turf.

Sessions discussed the proposed accessibility guidelines for playgrounds, access issues, playground surfaces, accessible surface testing research, equipment and innovative designs.

Peggy Greenwell of the U.S. Access Board and John McGovern of the North Suburban Special Recreation Association and the National Recreation and Park Association addressed the proposed accessibility guidelines for playgrounds as currently submitted to the U.S. Access Board by the Regulatory Negotiating Committee.  McGovern also gave an overview of current national complaints and litigation before the U.S. Department of Justice.

Susan Goltsman, Landscape Architect and a founder of MIG Inc, one of the leading national consulting firms specializing in children’s environments, presented a special session on designing creative play environments through the use of landscape, vegetation, water and sand.

Tom Kalousek of the Rockford Park District and president-elect of the National Playground Safety Institute (NPSI) presented on the role of NPSI and the American Society of Testing Materials in relation to accessibility for children with disabilities.

An entire day of the symposium was devoted to touring Indianapolis playgrounds to discuss application of the proposed standards, design and surfacing issues.  Project Coordinator and Landscape Architect for the Indianapolis Park and Recreation Department, Trent Rondot toured training course participants through six playgrounds illustrating applications for playground access along with design and maintenance issues.  Rondot attended the first NCA Playground Symposium in 1994 and has since worked with the Indianapolis Parks and Recreation Department to adopt a policy in which all new playgrounds would provide access to elevated play components for children using their assistive devices (i.e. crutches, walkers, wheelchairs).

For more information on access to playgrounds watch for the NCA Playground Access Web page which is now currently under construction at www.ncaonline.org.

NCA studying soil stabilizers used for trail surfaces

Creating outdoor trail surfaces that remain firm and stable over time and under varying weather conditions has been a consistent problem for managers of outdoor areas.  Soil hardening approaches developed for other applications (e.g., logging roads, outdoor sports fields, helicopter pads, etc.) have been used to provide access for people with disabilities to outdoor trails.  Yet, there have been few systematic efforts to directly compare and contrast these approaches to determine their effectiveness in providing access to people with disabilities.

The National Center on Accessibility recently undertook a pilot research project to compare the effectiveness of four surface treatments for creating a trail surface accessible to people with mobility impairments.  This study will examine the effects of the surface treatments on surface firmness and stability, the costs of applying the treatments, and their relative maintenance demands.

A 70' X 5' test trail located in a heavily used area of Bradford Woods, Indiana University’s Outdoor Education and Leadership Center, has been developed to test five trail hardening treatments and an indigenous soil control plot.  The trail base consists of compacted soil indigenous to central Indiana.  A 3" surface of quarter minus aggregate has been applied to each of the test plots.  The following trail hardening treatments have been applied to the test plots:

  • Stabilizer: a non-toxic, organic (ground seed hulls) additive.  Stabilizer, Inc., Phoenix, AZ

  • Road Oyl Emulsion: a pine resin emulsion.  Soil Stabilization Products Co., Merced, CA

  • Mountain Grout Soil Stabilizer: a hybrid polyurethane system.  Green Mountain International, Inc., Waynesville, NC

  • Limestone dust:  a byproduct of crushed limestone.

  • Limestone fines: quarter minus limestone fines mixed with base soil.
The control plot surface consists of 3" of indigenous soil applied to the trail base.

Data on the surfaces’ stability and firmness as well as weather conditions and surface traffic will be monitored for a minimum of 12 months.  Results of the study will be reported in Access Today and will be provided to the trail surface testing database being compiled at the USDA Forest Service Sand Dimas Technology and Development Center.

Access Board convenes first meeting of Regulatory Negotiation Committee on Outdoor Developed Areas

The U.S. Access Board convened the first meeting of the Regulatory Negotiation Committee on Outdoor Developed Areas June 26-27 at the Paralyzed Veterans of America headquarters in Washington, D.C.  The National Center on Accessibility has been appointed to serve on the committee.  The committee is responsible for developing consensus accessibility guidelines for trails, camping facilities, picnic areas, and beaches covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Architectural Barriers Act.  The committee will need to address, within each of these categories, definitions, scoping for new construction and alterations, and technical provisions.  The committee will not address land on which there is no development, policies and operating procedures for facilities, or other program related issues.

The initial meeting of the committee provided an overview of the Access Board and its rulemaking activities.  The committee was updated by Lawrence Roffee, Executive Director of the Access Board, and David Capozzi, Director of the Office of Technical and Information Services.  Pete Swanson from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services facilitated agreement on the committee’s organization protocols.  The protocols will guide the committee in areas such as participation, decision making, meetings, and the use of facilitators.

Future dates for committee meetings were established:

    September 24-26, 1997  Santa Cruz, California
    December 14-16, 1997  Location TBA
    February 1-3, 1998  Location TBA
    May 19-21, 1998  Location TBA
    August 12-14, 1998  Location TBA

Updated information on the meetings of the Regulatory Negotiation Committee can be found on the Access Board’s homepage at www.access-board.gov and on the NCA homepage at www.ncaonline.org.

Playground access update

The final report of the Regulatory Negotiation Committee on Accessibility Guidelines for Play Facilities is now available through the U.S. Access Board.  The Committee’s final report will serve as the basis for Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to be published late 1997 or early 1998 for public comment.  Members of the public including playground owners (park municipalities, schools, day care facilities, etc), equipment manufacturers and playground users, both adolescent users and adult caregivers, are encouraged to become familiar with the document and provide public comment to the Access Board on the recommendations at this time.

The final report is available on the homepage of the Access Board at www.access-board.gov or by phone order at 202/272-5434 (Voice), 202/272-5449 (TTY), or 202/272-5447 (FAX).

NCA conducts seminar on golf access

The National Center on Accessibility hosted a one-day seminar on accessible golf as a pre-conference to the annual tournament of the Association of Disabled American Golfers (ADAG) this July in Lakewood, Colorado.  The seminar was presented in cooperation with ADAG and the Rocky Mountain ADA Technical Assistance Center.  During a session on golf access-related litigation, Joe Russo of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and Jack Andre of the Equal Opportunity Program Office of the National Park Service updated attendees on complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Interior and the impact to the golf industry.

NCA Director of Research, Dr. Edward Hamilton, presented on the research study: Pace of Play of Golfers with and without Disabilities and the results of the research conducted at the 1995 ADAG Golf Tournament.  All participants were videotaped on each Par 3 hole.  Time intervals were recorded for each player.  Additionally, Gary Robb, NCA Director, presented on the status of the turfgrass research currently being concluded at Rutgers University.

Resources specific to golf access for people with disabilities are available through NCA and listed on the NCA homepage at www.ncaonline.org.

150th Easy Access Park Challenge project completed

The completion of the Limberlost Trail at Shenandoah National Park marked the completion of the 150th Easy Access Park Challenge Project.  A ceremony commemorating the completion of the trail was held on August 23 at the park.  This 1.3-mile trail  through an old-growth forest of hemlocks is a 5-foot wide hard-packed greenstone surface.  The trail has less than an 8 percent grade, a 65-foot bridge, a 150-foot boardwalk, as well as, benches located at frequent intervals to provide resting areas.  Individuals with mobility impairments now will have easier access to this magnificent natural area.

The Limberlost Trail project involved the planning of park employees and dedication of many volunteers, primarily from Bell Atlantic Pioneers of Virginia and youth groups working in summer conservation programs.  Donations from Culpeper Wood Preservers, Valley Timber Sales, Wood Preservers, National Park Foundation, Shenandoah Natural History Association, Wintergreen Nature Foundation, Bell Atlantic Pioneers of Virginia, and many individuals provided support to complete the Limberlost Trail.

The dedication ceremony was truly a celebration. Last fall, prior to the unveiling of the completed trail, flooding from Hurricane Fran destroyed the majority of the volunteer efforts. This setback was temporary when Bell Atlantic made a generous donation to assist the Pioneers in purchasing materials for reconstruction, and the Pioneer spirit and dedication shone through as volunteers returned to the trail to rebuild the damaged areas.  Shenandoah National Park Superintendent, Constance A. Rudd, summarized the appreciation of many, ”Today, we come together to dedicate this trail and celebrate the inspiration and spirit of service and support shown by all who contributed to this project.”

Telephone Pioneers continue commitment of volunteerism

The Telephone Pioneers of America, the National Park Service, and the National Center on Accessibility will celebrate the formal signing of the new Memorandum of Agreement to continue their partnership of support for the Easy Access Park Challenge (EAPC) program on October 2 at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine.  The EAPC program, administered by the National Center on Accessibility, works to increase accessible opportunities for people with disabilities in the nation’s parks through utilizing volunteer organizations to provide support for park projects.

The Telephone Pioneers of America is the world’s largest industry-related volunteer organization. Membership is made up of current and retired employees of Bell Atlantic, Pacific Bell, US West, Southwestern Bell, Ameritech, NYNEX, BellSouth, AT&T, Lucent Technologies and the Stentor-related operating companies in Canada.  With the new Memorandum of Agreement, the NCA anticipates that there will be an increase in accessible opportunities for visitors with disabilities within the National Park Service.  Park employees will know that they have a committed volunteer base to draw from to implement accessibility projects. The NCA will be able to provide assistance to the parks in connecting them with a Telephone Pioneer chapter that is interested in working on accessibility projects and also will be available to answer project questions relating to accessibility.

American Airlines and American Eagle employees volunteer at Mount Rainier

Not many people across the United States think about shoveling snow in July. However, Mount Rainier National Park needed to remove snow from pathways in the Paradise District to provide access for visitors to this sub-alpine region. Thirty-seven employees and family members from American Airlines and American Eagle volunteered for the weekend of July 12 to assist the park in snow removal.  Some of the volunteers even flew in from Texas to assist with the project. Volunteers removed snow from routes and completed some needed trail rehabilitation.  The Paradise District of Mount Rainier received the second deepest snowfall in recorded history and by July much of the snow had not melted. The park superintendent and the trails supervisor for the project greatly appreciated the “high-energy group” that completed a “phenomenal” amount of work within the park.  This was the fourth year these volunteers have been involved with the EAPC program at Mount Rainer.

Cape Cod National Seashore receives EAPC donation

Red Maple Swamp boardwalk at Cape Cod National Seashore in South Wellfleet, Massachusetts is undergoing a renovation.  Portions of the boardwalk will be rebuilt to make them accessible for visitors who use wheelchairs. Thanks to a donation received through the Easy Access Park Challenge (EAPC) program, the park will soon begin the initial retrofit phase.

Cape Cod National Seashore became eligible to receive funding through the EAPC program because the Accessibility Coordinator had contacted the National Center on Accessibility and identified projects to be included as part of the EAPC program. The Red Maple Swamp project met the criteria for the donation that was given to the EAPC program. More information will be provided about the project as construction progresses.

Park employees interested in participating in the EAPC program are encouraged to identify projects within their park that could use the assistance of volunteers. Submission of potential projects can be made to NCA with information including: project name, a brief description, estimated cost, number of volunteers, materials needed, and time frame.

Wyoming Pioneers Chapter rebuilds Yellowstone route

Yellowstone National Park has a newly rebuilt accessible route from the Fishing Bridge RV Campground to the Fishing Bridge Complex thanks to the Wyoming Chapter of the Telephone Pioneers of America, Community Entry Services Volunteers with Disabilities from Riverton and Jacksonhole, Wyoming, and employees of the park.

The rehabilitation of this one-quarter mile route provides better access for campers from the RV Campground to reach the Complex; which has a store, gas station and other amenities. The volunteers spent the weekend of September 6 widening, leveling, and blacktopping the route and also dug trenches for the installation of wire for lighting the trail. Campground users with and without disabilities will have an improved route with lighting to access the Fishing Bridge Complex.  Yellowstone National Park employees greatly appreciate the commitment of the Pioneers volunteering time to complete another Easy Access Park Challenge project within the park.

Fort McHenry installs new audio system

Visitors with visual impairments to Fort McHenry National Monument & Historic Shrine in Baltimore, Maryland, will now have the opportunity to listen to an audio description explanation of exhibits in the Star Fort.  A multi-channeled FM audio system will provide visitors with pre-recorded descriptions of the exhibits and details of the Star Fort.  Previously, the interpretive information had only been available through brochures and exhibit text. Future plans for the new audio system include programming additional channels in other languages for international visitors.

A formal dedication of the new system will be on October 2 in conjunction with the signing ceremony for the Memorandum of Agreement for the Easy Access Park Challenge program. The FM Audio System was a project that was completed through the efforts of the Chesapeake Council of Lucent Technologies Telephone Pioneers of America. The commitment of these volunteers for the last two years has provided funding and installation for the project with assistance from the Patriots of Fort McHenry and Fort McHenry employees.

Guest column

ASTM, Access Board and Beneficial Designs partner to develop standards for playground surfaces

by Kathleen M. Wong, Beneficial Designs

All surfacing materials used in playground construction will soon be required to meet a new American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standard.  ASTM PS-83, a provisional standard to determine the accessibility of playground surface systems, was published in April 1997.  The standard applies to all surfacing systems designed to be used under and around playground equipment.

In recent years, playground surfaces have evolved from unyielding concrete to include hard rubber mats placed over asphalt, tan bark, and a whole new generation of resilient, but durable, surface systems specifically designed to cushion hard landings.  But the cushioning properties of these new surfaces often reduces their ease of use for people who use mobility assistive devices such as wheelchairs or crutches that tend to sink into and bog down in the softer materials.

While the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines mandated that all public areas must provide an accessible route, a lack of data for playground surface systems has left designers and planners wondering which surfacing materials are both accessible and safe.

Recognizing the problem, the ASTM Playground Surfacing Task Group, with the cooperation of the U.S. Access Board, set out to develop a standard for playground surfaces in early 1994.  Building upon the research Beneficial Designs was conducting on a method of measuring the work (energy) required to cross a surface in a wheelchair, ASTM and Beneficial Designs began collaborating to refine the method into a national standard.

The Beneficial Designs wheelchair work measurement method used a device called the SMARTwheel, developed by Rory Cooper of the University of Pittsburgh and the Highland Drive Veterans Administration Medical Center.  The SMARTwheel consists of a wheelchair rear wheel fitted with strain gauges capable of measuring the forces of propulsion applied to the pushrim by a rider.  As the rider propels the wheelchair from a stationary position on the test surface, the torque data is recorded and analyzed by a computer.  The data analysis program calculates the work per meter required for the wheelchair rider to travel across the test surface.

In PS-83, the work required to propel a wheelchair over the test surface is compared to the work required to propel up a 1:14 (7.1 percent) grade ramp, which is less steep than the maximum 1:12 ramp allowed by most accessibility standards.  The rider first follows a straight course and up a straight ramp.  The rider then propels around a turn on level ground and on the ramp.  If the rider does less work on the surface level than the ramp in both cases, the surface is considered to have met the standard and passed the test.  The second part of the provisional standard incorporates a surface regularity test to measure the size and number of cavities large enough to potentially cause injury or impede travel.

Within the next two years, several different laboratories will test the same panel of surfaces and report their results.  At the end of this testing period, ASTM will compare all testing results, analyze the reproducibility of the test method, and publish a precision and bias statement.

Testing of playground surfaces with PS-83 will be done on a purely voluntary basis until the standard graduates from its provisional status.  Once the standard is adopted and incorporated into the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines, play area designers such as architects and municipalities as well as playground surface system manufacturers will need to reevaluate their playground surfaces material selection options.  If the standard is included in the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s handbook, PS-83 could be in general use even sooner.

A standard rating of the level of access of playground surfaces will benefit children enjoying playground areas, as well as parents and child minders who will more easily be able to access the play area and keep a closer eye on their children.  More children and their parents will be able to maneuver in and access playground areas to recreate together.  Playground surfacing materials that meet this standard will make it easier for playground designers to develop areas for accessibility as well as safety.  Making playgrounds accessible is an important step toward providing equal access for all.  For additional information about surface testing, contact Beneficial Designs at (408) 429-8447.

Restaurant required to remove barriers

The U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts-based Friendly Ice Cream Corporation recently entered into a consent decree under which Friendly's will engage in an aggressive barrier-removal program to increase accessibility throughout its chain of 704 restaurants in 15 States. The consent order requires Friendly's to come into substantial compliance within six years. In the first year, Friendly's will complete barrier removal at 117 locations, including altering the entrances (removing steps, widening doorways, and redesigning vestibules) at those 93 restaurants that currently have inaccessible entrances. Other alterations required by the consent order include redesigning dining areas to accommodate wheelchair users; striping parking areas to include accessible spaces; and altering bathrooms by widening doorways, increasing unobstructed floor space, installing grab bars and accessible door hardware. In addition, the consent order requires the company to pay a civil penalty of $50,000. 

Source: U.S. Department of Justice  


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