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Visitor Expectations and Perceptions of Program and
Physical Accessibility in the National Park Service

Presented by: Dr. Rachel Chen

View streaming video for this presentation

Overview

  • Purpose of the Study
  • Method
    - 5 selected national parks
    - Survey Questions
  • Result Examples
  • Suggestions

Purpose

  • Identify the perceptions of people with disabilities relative to program and physical accessibility in national parks
  • Survey individuals with disabilities on their input - "what makes an enjoyable park experience"
  • Provide information for park managers relative the access in their park
  • Decision-makers and managers of various national park units serve visitors with disabilities better and plan for future development

Methodology

  • Develop the survey instrument
  • On-site interviews
    - A comprehensive questionnaire with a postage-paid envelope
    - A second copy of the questionnaire with postage-paid envelope and a reminder postcard
  • Work with local disability resource centers to recruit subjects for the study

Survey Questions

  • the nature of the disability
  • participants’ attitudes toward accessibility in the major park attractions
  • participants’ opinions about the quality of the national park units, and questions about the participants’ perceptions of program accessibility in national parks
  • their travel plans for the national park unit visit

Participants

  • Adults (age 18 and older) who use
    - mobility devices, personal assistants, service animals, communication devices (TTY), or hearing aids
  • Parents/caregiver of an individual with developmental disabilities
  • Parents/caregivers of kids with disabilities
  • Five National Park Units
    - The Great Smoky Mountains National Park
    - The Blue Ridge Parkway
    - The Shenandoah National Park
    - The Mammoth Cave National Park
    - The Hot Springs National Park

Analysis

  • Data Collection: during the summer to the fall of 2001
  • Cross-tabulations and frequency distributions
  • Participants’ comments from the open-ended responses

Types of Assistances and Devices

  • The three most common devices used
    - manual wheelchairs (26%)
    - canes (25%)
    - power wheelchairs (25%)
  • Others
    - personal assistants (22%)
    - walkers (22%)
    - hearing aids (10%)
    - crutches (8%)
    - scooters (9%)
    - communication devices (4%)
    - service animals (3%)

Example: Overall Satisfaction Regarding Accessibility in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

  • The mean overall satisfaction to the accessibility in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was (on a 1 to 7 scale, where 1 = very dissatisfied, 4 = neutral, and 7 = very satisfied)
    - 4.5 rated by all respondents,
    - 4.67 rated by visitors with physical disabilities,
    - 4.67 rated by visitors with hearing impairments, and
    - 2.5 rated by parents/caregivers of persons with developmental disabilities.

Example: Visitors’ Opinions of the Shenandoah National Park and its Physical Accessibility

  • General Accessibility Elements
    - Lack of knowledgeable and/or helpful park staff regarding accessibility in the Park (3.93), and
    - Lack of accurate information on accessibility in the park (4.8) were rated by all participants
  • Physical Accessibility Elements
    - lack of the width of doorway in restrooms (5.71)
    - lack of grab bars in restrooms (5.23)
    - lack of accessible trails (5.13)
    - lack of appropriate urinal height in restrooms (5)
    - lack of accessible restrooms (5.1)
    - lack of accessible drinking water (4.73)
    - narrow tread width of outdoor recreation access routes (4.54)

More Specific Physical Accessibility Element Examples

  • In the case of the Blue Ridge Parkway, individuals with physical disabilities rated there was a problem for
    - lack of smooth surfaces around the picnic table (4.11)
    - lack of firm and stable seating space (4.11)
    - lack of appropriate ground slope around the picnic table (4)
    - lack of appropriate ground surfaces around the table (3.89)
    - lack of accessible route to the table (3.78), and lack of clear space for knees (3)

Travel Behaviors of Visitors with Disabilities

  • Planning Time: Example - the Mammoth Cave National Park
    - Fifty-three of the Mammoth Cave National Park respondents made their trip decision to visit the park on the day of the trip.
    - Twenty six percent of respondents made their trip decision to visit the park less than 1 week in advance.
  • Activity Engagement: Example – the Hot Spring National Park
    - visiting a scenic area (50%)
    - visiting a historical site (39%)
    - camping (33%)
    - fishing (28%)
    - visiting a museum (28%), and hiking (22%)

Summary

  • More information collected from this study
    - What design problems exist with these elements?
    - What would have to change about the program and physical accessibility to make the park more accessible and enjoyable?
  • Demographic Information: age, gender, income, occupation, and education level…
  • Where, how, and with whom

Suggestions

  • The implication of the pilot test
  • The importance of further investigation
  • The on-going project

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