Accessibility: Issues and Recommendations
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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.
|People with disabilities enjoy the same array
of personal and social benefits from outdoor recreational pursuits
as people without disabilities. Photo Courtesy of Wilderness Inquiry
People with disabilities enjoy the same array of personal
and social benefits from outdoor recreational pursuits as people
without disabilities. With 19.7 percent of the population of the
United States having a disability (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2001),
it is imperative that facility managers and site planners meet the
challenge of providing accessible outdoor facilities and activities
without fundamentally altering the nature of the activity itself.
Camping offers a wide spectrum of benefits to the participant including
a social experience with family and friends, escape from the stress
of work and daily life through access to the natural environment,
and a solitary experience where a person relies on their own abilities
and knowledge to survive alone and without modern conveniences. The
different types of camping opportunities available at a site should
be evaluated relative to accessibility for people with different types
of abilities and should foster independent use by a person with a
of Camping Spaces
of Accessible Camping Spaces (Tent, RV, Shelters)
2 to 25
26 to 50
51 to 75
76 to 100
101 to 150
151 to 200
201 to 300
301 to 400
401 to 500
501 to 1000
20 plus 1
for each 100 over 1000
16.17 Regulatory Negotiation Committee on Accessibility
Guidelines for Outdoor Developed Areas Final Report
Federal law, including the Americans with Disabilities
Act, the Architectural Barriers Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation
Act, require facilities to be accessible to people with disabilities.
When the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines
(ADAAG) were released in 1991, outdoor recreation environments were
not specifically addressed. The United States Access Board is now
developing accessibility guidelines for various recreation environments,
including Outdoor Developed Areas. Currently, the Final Report on
Outdoor Developed Areas (ODA) is the best available information
and should be used when making a camping area accessible.
Dispersion: Providing Accessible Opportunities Through
Various Camp Site Types
|Recreational vehicle and tent camping in Idaho.
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
According to the Regulatory Negotiation Committee on Accessibility
Guidelines for Outdoor Developed Areas Final Report, "Campsite use
requires specific equipment and a specially designed area may not
be suitable for every use. An example might be if someone comes
prepared to use a tent, they may not be able to use a paved RV site."
Additionally, the Final Report on Outdoor Developed Areas identifies
three types of camping spaces; RV/Trailer, Tent Pad and Platform,
and Shelter/Cabin. Each type of accessible space offers a unique
form of camping and is to be dispersed throughout the style of camping
according to Table 16.17.
Dispersion enhances the opportunity for an individual
with a disability to choose the campsite to his/her liking. Consider
how visitors use the campground. Campers are not confined to their
designated camping space, but often meander through the campground
visiting with other campers, using amenities or getting exercise.
A person with a disability may want to visit another camper's site
for social interaction around a meal or the campfire. The site will
need to be accessible to foster an independent visit by a person
with a disability.
|Campsite designated by the International Symbol
of Accessibility, McCormick's Creek State Park, Indiana.
Often times the accessible campsites are located closest
to the accessible amenities such as the comfort station or rest
room. Not everyone wants to be located in the highest traffic area
of the campground and may desire to be further away from the restrooms.
Some campers choose to be close to developed amenities while others
choose more secluded or remote camp sites. The key concept in dispersion
is the element of choice. Enable campers to choose among camp site
types where each type is accessible.
The most effective means of providing integrated accessible
camping is to make all campsites accessible, adopting the principles
of Universal Design. This approach will further facilitate socialization
between campers with varying abilities as well as provide the widest
array of site choices for all visitors.
Accessibility Specifications by Camp Site Type
Recreational vehicle and trailer camping spaces are designed
for use by motorized vehicles, including motor homes, fifth wheels
and tent campers. As with all campsites, site planners and facility
managers should consider the type of equipment used at the site
and the spatial needs of users. For example, a RV/Trailer campsite
is required to have a minimum width of 20 ft (ODA 220.127.116.11), which
represents the minimum space needed for an RV/Trailer camper who
also uses a wheelchair. The 20-ft minimum was arrived at by considering
the following dimensions:
The width of an RV is assumed at 9-ft based on current dimensions
in the RV industry.
|An accessible recreational vehicle.
courtesy of Winnebago.
An access aisle on the driver's side of the vehicle is to measure
at a minimum of 3-ft, enabling a person using a wheel chair to
access utilities located on the driver's side of the vehicle.
The clear space on the passenger side of the vehicle is to have
a minimum width of 8-ft. A wheel chair lift for a motorized vehicle
generally requires an 8-ft wide level space to operate in full
- Shelter/Cabin Camping
Cabin camping spaces offer the user an overnight accommodation
that requires little or no physical exertion in comparison to tent
and RV camping, which require the set-up and break down of camping
Cabin spaces are regarded as part of the built environment and
are required to be accessible according to the Americans with
Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (Section 9:Transient
If parking is provided, the cabin should have a minimum 16-ft
wide parking space and an accessible route from the accessible
parking to the accessible entrance of the cabin (ODA: 18.104.22.168).
- Tent Pads & Platforms
Tent pads and platforms are designed for use by nonmotorized
staked tent camping. The tent space will include a minimum of 48
inches of firm and stable clear space surrounding the tent so that
people with mobility impairments, such as people who use wheelchairs
or crutches, can access each side to stake the tent.
|Tent pads and platforms are designed for use
by non-motorized staked tent camping. Photo courtesy
of Wilderness Inquiry.
There is a need, however, for tent pegs to be inserted into the
tent camping surface. An accessible tent site needs to provide
the opportunity to stake tent pegs while providing a firm and
stable surface. Aggregate material and fines can be firm and stable
if compacted correctly and tent pegs can be inserted into this
surface. The tent area can also be made of sand, dirt or grass
as long as the surrounding surface is firm and stable. The camper
can then use the firm and stable surface to maneuver while staking
tent pegs in the softer, inaccessible material.
Additionally, the slope of the tent space should be no more than
1:50 in any direction (ODA: 22.214.171.124). The Outdoor Developed
Areas Final Report does allow a slope increase to 1:33 if required
for proper drainage. A curb no less than 3 inches high should
be provided on a tent platform to keep people and mobility devices
from slipping off of the raised campsite (ODA: 126.96.36.199) An accessible
route to the adjacent ground surface should connect the tent surface
Status of Rulemaking for Developed Outdoor Areas
The U.S. Access Board is currently developing accessibility
guidelines for access to outdoor developed areas under the Americans
with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG). In 1999
the U.S. Access Board's Regulatory Negotiation Committee submitted
recommendations for scoping and technical provisions for campgrounds,
picnic areas, scenic overlooks, trails and beaches. The final report
is available on the Access Board web site.
The next step is for the U.S. Access Board to release
a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on Outdoor Developed Areas.
The NPRM is expected to be released sometime before the end of 2003
and will provide the public with the opportunity to comment on the
proposed rule. Once the public comment is reviewed by the Access
Board and adjustments are made, the Access Board will issue a final
rule and forward it to the U.S. Department of Justice for adoption
in the current ADA Accessibility Guidelines. Follow the rulemaking
on the U.S. Access Board web site: www.access-board.gov
Going Above and Beyond
The Final Report on Outdoor Developed Areas does not specify a particular
design that is accessible. Facility designers are encouraged to go
above and beyond these minimum guidelines to provide the best design
for all users. Facility managers and landscape designers around the
country are using their creativity to plan accessible campsites. The
following proposed designs will require, at minimum, routine maintenance
to ensure accessibility.
|Recreational vehicle and tent campsite in Oregon.
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
The following is a sampling of how park and recreation
agencies are planning for accessibility:
- Indiana Department of Natural Resources
A new State Park offers Indiana the opportunity
to plan for accessibility from the beginning of the design process.
The proposed RV campsites will include accessible amenities such
as a picnic table, a grill or fire ring, and water, electric and
sewer utilities. The site is approximately 35-ft wide by 30-ft deep
with an additional 12-ft wide parking area extending 6-ft past the
length of the site. 6 by 6 timbers will border the site, enclosing
and containing the compacted crushed limestone and fines that will
be used as the surface material.
- Cade's Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
A combination RV/Tent campsite will be constructed
with a concrete entrance pad for vehicle parking. The tent area
will measure 20-ft by 20-ft with a surface of sand held in with
6 by 6 boards which will be flush with the bordering concrete. The
large tent site allows for a wide variety of tent sizes and the
sand presents a soft surface for sleeping. If the tent is smaller
than 20-ft by 20-ft, the camper can place two edges of the tent
flush with the edges of the sand to enable tent staking on at least
three of the four tent sides. All campsite amenities will be accessible,
including a picnic table, fire ring and pedestal grill. This is
the largest of the proposed accessible sites, with dimensions of
approximately 55-ft by 70- ft, allowing for tent camping and RV
camping to occur at the same time. At this park, one of the most
visited in the nation, facility managers recognize the need for
larger and more varied camping spaces. This space includes consideration
of a vehicle in tow behind the RV as well as additional vehicle
- New York Department of Environmental Conservation
The use of a 20-ft by 20-ft concrete pad
with the surface of the center area consisting of dirt is being
considered as a possible design for making camping accessible. This
site would be both a RV and a tent camping area; therefore, both
types of equipment must be taken into consideration. During use
by an RV, the center area of dirt will be covered. While in use
by a tent, the tent will cover the center area and the user will
be able to drive the stakes into the dirt. The concrete will form
a firm and stable surface around the border of the tent.
Program Access at Camp Sites
Accessibility information should be easy to locate and
regularly available to site users. A centrally located or highly
visited area, such as a park or camp office, is an ideal place for
site maps, brochures and other media, that provide information on
campground accessibility. The information should include details
of the number and location of accessible campsites, comfort stations,
utilities, and any other accessible features. Publications and signage
announcing programs or activities should include accessibility information
|Accessibility information should be provided at
centrally located, highly visited areas, such as a camp/park
office or visitor center.
Tactile or 3-D maps of campgrounds should be provided
so that people who are blind or who have visual impairments can
use the maps to orient themselves to their surroundings. A TTY (and
staff trained on its proper use) should be available to receive
reservations from TTY users. This ensures that TTY users will have
the same opportunities as afforded others to reserve campsites by
telephone. Nationwide reservation systems must also provide the
Campgrounds with only the minimum number of accessible
sites must develop reservation policies for those sites. Such policies
will indicate how the accessible sites are reserved and how long
they are held when the campground is full to capacity. Are the sites
only for use by people with disabilities? Or, are the sites held
until the remainder of the campground is full and then they are
assigned on a firstcome, first-served basis? What is the policy
for the remainder of the campsites? If the non-accessible campsites
are available on a first-come, first served basis (without prior
reservations), the accessible sites should also be available on
a firstcome, first-served basis. In a campground where not all sites
are accessible, the International Symbol of Accessibility should
identify the accessible sites.
One consideration for making camping opportunities inclusive
of people with disabilities is to make all campsites accessible.
When all sites are accessible, opportunities and choices are increased
and there is no need for an additional reservation policy or for
identifying accessible sites with the International Symbol of Accessibility.
Other considerations include all non-accessible campsites complying
with as many of the minimum guidelines as possible, identifying
accessible sites with the International Symbol of Accessibility,
dispersing accessible campsites among sun and shade areas and among
varying attractions such as views and proximity to trails, lakes,
pools, playgrounds, etc.
Amenities at Camp Sites
|Amenities at camp sites are to be accessible and
located on an accessible route. Photo courtesy of the
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
The Final Report on Outdoor Developed Areas also addresses
amenities for recreation areas including picnic tables and grills.
Campsite amenities are to be accessible and located on an accessible
route. Grills, picnic tables, fire rings, water and electric utilities
and restrooms or comfort stations are often located near the accessible
campsite, but are not located on accessible surfaces. Often a facility
will place a picnic table or a pedestal grill on grass or other
naturally occurring surface just outside the area covered by the
firm and stable surface. This creates both a difficult surface to
maneuver and a change in level between the accessible surface and
the non-accessible surface. More information on accessible picnic
elements is available in NCA Tech Sheet #4 "Accessible Picnic Tables:
Requirements and Recommendations."
People with disabilities are individuals with unique preferences
and needs. Each person looks for different benefits from recreating.
One cannot assume the abilities or preferences of a person with
a disability simply because of previous experience with others with
a similar disability. Incorporating accessibility into campsite
policy and planning will enable people with varying abilities the
opportunity to experience the unique social and personal benefits
derived from camping.