I am commenting primarily on a personal level, although I am an employee of the US Forest Service. I frequently accompany friends and families that use wheelchairs or crutches on recreational trips, especially hiking, picnicking, and swimming. I and two of my sons are HOH/Deaf. And I also work as the Recreation Program Manager on the Kisatchie National Forest. With all this said, I would just like to touch on a few points:
- I go to National Forest, National Park, and State Parks, and other outdoor areas to see a natural setting. I plan ahead of time to make an informed decision of what we will be able to do. Some of my friends require more assistance than others. But some of them can go places I have trouble getting to. It is helpful that if there are any facilities or sites that they have the accessible furnishings, but that does not mean to pave the world.
- I do not want to be enjoying my hike or trying to take pictures of my friends and kids only to have the blue glaring out of place ISA symbol pop out. For urban or higher developed areas, that is better fitting, but not out on a trail or in lower developed setting. Information can be given that better fits in. It is also confusing… exactly what is accessible and for how far, etc.… Many people see that symbol and have a very high expectation of the definition… that can be misleading.
- A definition between development levels would be helpful. There is a lot of expectation differences for development level of facilities and trails.
- I believe the natural setting, cultural aspects, terrain, experience expectation, and environmental factors should all be taken into consideration,especially when it is not a new place or trail, in any facility, trail, or access route situation.
Our recreation experiences are very important to us. I want as many people to have access to as many places as possible. I believe that there is not much to stop some of us from going anywhere as much as I believe that it does not take much to stop some from going anywhere. But I firmly believe that in many instances removing physical or information barriers is more important than paving the world. With proper information and planning, many barriers are removed or lessened. Paving the world or not considering the natural setting can take away a whole experience for the able bodied and people with disabilities alike.