LINDA KOTOWSKI: Well, thank you so much for coming to Colorado and for not only letting us participate in the rule making process but for letting us participate and observe the experience this morning with the town hall meeting and providing an educational experience for all of us who are so far removed from a lot of the activity that you all have.
So my name is Linda Kotowski. I am a parks and recreation professional working in Aurora Colorado, a longtime advocate for inclusion, particularly in park and recreation settings. I’m speaking to you today as president elect of the National Recreation and Park Association.
NRPA is a national not for profit organization dedicated to advancing park, recreation and conservation efforts through our network of more than 21,000 citizens and professionals who provide safe and enjoyable recreation to the general public.
Access and inclusion is a cornerstone of what we do, and what we help our members to do in their own communities.
NRPA has been fortunate to have had involvement with the Access Board in the process of developing these guidelines. We thank you for your invitations to collaborate and we look forward to more work with you.
We’ve appointed a 17 member task force to review the NPRM, and we will have more lengthy and detailed comments later in the process. Today, we’d like to make some general points that encourage your work.
We want to thank you for your continued commitment to developing accessibility guidelines and applaud you for the work that you do.
My colleague, Colleen Fitzgerald, and I will be presenting the NRPA’s work group’s initial comments.
Regarding applicability. We know that the Access Board is intending this NPRM to apply to outdoor developed areas designed, constructed or altered by federal agencies subject to the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968. However, in another place, the NPRM says the Architectural Barriers Act applies to federally financed facilities. We believe that the Access Board intends this guideline to apply only to federal agencies, and we seek your clarification.
Specifically, we ask that the application of these guidelines to sites financed with grants or funds from federal government agencies such as FEMA, LAWCON, transportation funds, recreation trails funding and other sources be clarified.
In general issues, we encourage the board to consider the inclusion of a documentation requirement to direct planners and programmers to detail the process they used for the sighting of outdoor developed areas. It would be valuable to understand why planners deviate from the most accessible requirement and to understand why they invoke the use of an exception.
We also encourage the board to provide clear language as to the qualities and characteristics of historic sites and protected wilderness areas.
Planners need to understand what the qualifications are in order to label a location as one of these types of venues before they can properly use these justifications.
Regarding Question 1, the approach in the NPRM requires new trails to be accessible and recognizes conditions that allow for departure from the technical provisions. Right now, we have no information to suggest another approach would be more effective or more fair to all involved. It might help to know the number of new trails created annually on federal lands.
Question 2: Regarding trails, condition 4 described in Section T302 on Page 34085 permits a trail to deviate from the requirements when compliance would not be feasible due to terrain or the prevailing construction practices.
The term “not feasible” is defined as something that is not reasonably doable. The Access Board asks whether the word “practicable” should be used here instead of or in addition to “not feasible” and “reasonably doable.”
The Merriam Webster on line dictionary defines practicable as “capable of being put into practice or being done or accomplished.” It also asks whether more guidance should be provided to land managers or the public and if so, what type of guidance. We think the addition of phrases to this exception is unnecessary. There is no need to add another term and another definition. We prefer the use of the existing term “technically infeasible” and recommend using the phrase “compliance is technically infeasible due to terrain or prevailing construction practices.”
Question 9: We believe this advisory language should be retained, but enhanced, to reflect current technologies and ways to measure penetration. We also suggest that the description of T303.3 examples be redesigned to include a bulleted list with examples of common surface types and a spectrum of sieve sizes under each category.
Question 13, we suspect that construction tolerances in outdoor environments should be greater, but don’t know how much greater, but we’ll continue to explore this.
Question 14: We generally believe that all new construction should be accessible, either by technology or other means. It is feasible that someone with a disability will be able to get to that picnic table and, therefore, it should be accessible. Again, we’ll continue to study this.
Question 20: We are inclined to treat the outdoor recreation access routes differently than a trail, and therefore, not apply any conditions that permit departure from the technical provisions. Again, we’ll continue to study this.
Those are all of my comments, and Colleen will provide the additional comments from our work group.