Division of Public Policy
1901 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Suite 900
Washington, DC 20006-3405
202-887-0290 · Fax: 202-887-5484
October 16, 2007
Office of Technical and Information Services
Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board
1331 F Street, N.W. Suite 1000
Washington, DC 2004-1111
DOCKET NO. 2007-02
The National Recreation and Park Association appreciates the opportunity to submit comments on the proposed accessibility guidelines for outdoor developed areas designed, constructed, or altered by Federal agencies subject to the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968.
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 do in their communities. As a non-profit organization seeking to advance parks, recreation and environmental efforts that enhance the quality of life for all people, NRPA has a specific interest in ensuring the accessibility of outdoor developed areas and seeks to assist the Access Board in improving the guidelines as proposed.
As co-chairs of the Board of Trustees’ Public Policy Committee, we submit these comments in support of the guidelines on behalf of the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA).
By way of background, NRPA sought to gain the broadest possible representation from our membership which includes recreation program managers, therapeutic recreation specialists, park superintendents, and citizen board members. NRPA appointed a diverse working group to review the NPRM under the direction of our Board of Trustees’ Public Policy Committee. We have offered our analysis of the proposed rulemaking and recommendations to improve the rules at each of the three public hearings held by the Access Board. Over the past several months, based on input from our members, our thinking has evolved and we have refined our recommendations and answers to questions raised.
NRPA appreciates the assistance from the Access Board in the process of developing these guidelines and we especially appreciate the willing and collaborative approach of the board. We look forward to continuing to work with the Board.
The comments we submit today, October 17, 2007, reflect our final responses to the questions posed in the NPRM.
Once again, thank you for the opportunity to provide these comments on the proposed guidelines. We would like to recognize the members of our working group, and also want to recognize and applaud your continued commitment to developing accessibility guidelines that will ensure greater access for persons with disabilities to outdoor developed areas. If you have any questions or would like additional information about NRPA’s process in developing our comments, please contact Richard Dolesh, Director of Public Policy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-887-0290.
Co-Chair Public Policy Committee
Co-Chair Public Policy Committee
Questions Concerning 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 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, LWCF, Transportation funds, such as Recreation Trails Program, Transportation Enhancements, and other sources, be clarified. We were advised at one of the public hearings that these guidelines would apply to local and state park and recreation sites that receive federal funds, but we would like to have that opinion included in the final version of the guidelines, if in fact, it is true.
We also seek clarification as to what is considered “new” or “existing” property. If the outdoor developed area was operated by a separate entity and then later sold to or acquired by the federal government, is that property “new” or “existing”?
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 siting of outdoor developed areas. It would be valuable to understand why planners deviate from the most accessible alternatives and to understand why they invoked the use of an exception. For example, it would be helpful to understand why a planner chose a route for a trail that takes the trail through an area that cannot be made to comply with the technical provisions for trail access.
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 characteristics make a site eligible for recognition as an historic site.
Park and recreation managers should strive to make as many of their elements accessible as is reasonable and feasible to do so. As picnic tables, fire rings, fireplaces, grills, benches, and other outdoor elements or features need to be replaced, due to damage or wear and tear, they should be replaced with the most accessible design element available. Furthermore, all new features or elements should be accessible to utilize economies of scale and to avoid non-compliance in the future.
Question 1 page 34075
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 fair to all involved. It might help to know the number of new trails created annually on federal lands, as a way to evaluate the other approaches.
Question 2 page 34075
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 do-able”. The Access Board asks whether the word “practicable” should be used here instead or in addition to “not feasible” and “reasonably do-able”. The Merriam-Webster OnLine Dictionary defines practicable as “…capable of being put into practice or of being done or accomplished.”
The Board also asks whether more guidance should be provided to land managers and the public, and if so, what type of guidance.
We think the addition of phrases, such as practicable, 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 3 page 34075
We agree a sign is necessary and it should reflect the outdoor environment.
Therefore, we suggest using green, not blue, and we prefer the sign on the top row to the left on page 34131 which is the hiker icon and the wheelchair icon.
The International Symbol of Accessibility is NOT recommended for use in designating a trail as accessible.
Looking at the options presented, we suggest the addition of 4 wheelchair pictograms or icons to the sample sign on page 34134 or the rotation of a person in a wheelchair in the icons with an ambulatory person.
We also prefer the grade profile which is found in the lower Yosemite fall trail outline on page 34135. We think that this profile is more helpful than the trail profile on the Happy Falls trail.
Finally, an important message on these signs is the distance into the trail, from the trailhead, at which the first significant condition arises that permits a departure from the technical provisions. In other words, how far can a person go on this trail before they can’t go anymore?
Question 4 page 34076
We believe that exception number 6 of T205.2.3 should be eliminated completely. Where a route is provided for pedestrian use and constructed from a developed site to, or along the edge of, an existing beach, a beach access route should also be provided. The 6 inch exception is too broad of an exception and would not provide sufficient access for persons with disabilities to get to or enjoy a beach.
We also feel that the Board should specify how frequently a beach access route must be provided on an existing beach. The regulations specify that a beach access route should be provided every one-half mile of new beach, but does not create a similar specific requirement for an existing beach. We understand that unique conditions and barriers exist for those operating an existing beach; therefore, the requirements for existing beaches could be more lenient than the requirement for a new beach. As such, we suggest that the Board include a requirement that a beach access route be required every mile of linear feet on an existing beach, or at a minimum, to include the requirement that at least one beach access route exist in every jurisdiction operating existing beaches.
Question 5 page 34076
We believe the beach access route should be wider than 36” and instead should be 48” wide. Different conditions exist on a beach access route than on a trail; therefore the width should be wider for a beach access route than for a trail. If an individual using a wheelchair somehow leaves the beach access route, they are less likely to be able to maneuver back onto the route by themselves because sand is very difficult to traverse in a mobility device. This is not necessarily true for a trail, which is typically surrounded by solid ground, or at least ground that is more solid than sand.
We suggest that T305.4 should be revised to provide a clear width of beach access routes to be 48 inches minimum.
We believe that the requirement for a passing space every 200 feet is a good measure. Therefore, we suggest that T305.7 remain the same.
Question 6 page 34076
We believe the beach access route should connect to other features on the beach, such as concessions, volleyball pits, playgrounds, restrooms, first aid stations, and so forth. Therefore, we suggest that T305.3 be revised to include the requirement that beach access routes connect managed elements and spaces often located on a beach such as beach volleyball courts, first aid stations, beach rental equipment facilities, and concession stands.
We would also suggest that the Board provide a bit more clarification or expansion in the location requirements outlined in T305.3. We want to know if the location of a beach access route should also consider water level conditions that could change depending on climate conditions (such as flooding or drought).
Question 7 page 34076
We believe that cooking grills should be fully adjustable and allow for adjustments to be completed with the use of one hand or arm or applicable assistive devices. This would accommodate the largest number of users of all abilities. Grills should be adjustable up to a maximum height of 34” and be no lower than 15” above ground level.
Question 8 page 34076
The term “area” needs to be defined. We suggest using the ADVISORY language provided in the boxed text following proposed T206.2.2.
Thus, T206.2.2 should read:
Multiple Picnic Tables. Where two or more fixed picnic tables are provided in a picnic area, at least 50 percent, but never less than two, must comply with T306. An “area” refers to a designated location where picnic related elements are located. Areas may be separated and include different settings on the same site. For example, a picnic area located next to a lake in a park is considered a separate picnic area from a pavilion with numerous picnic tables within the same park. Picnic areas may also be separated and designated by a name or connected to a separate entrance.
Question 9 page 34076
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 10 page 34076
We believe the scoping requirements as proposed are acceptable. As we stated earlier, we believe that there should be as many accessible features as possible; however, we agree that in most cases, a minimum of 50% of the elements provided should be accessible. Of those elements required to be accessible, 40% are also required to be connected by an outdoor recreation access route.
Question 11 page 34076
We believe that the reach range should be a maximum height of 48” and a low of 15” with a 9” low reach for the fire building surface of a fire ring. Concern for safety, both fire and personal, must be reflected in determining adequate reach range.
Question 12 page 34077
We suggest that the same special conditions provided for trails should be provided for alterations and maintenance in beaches, campsites and picnic areas.
Question 13 page 34077
We recognize the perception that in some outdoor environments, there may be a need for more tolerances, but we do not know what those tolerances should be. Our understanding of this issue is further complicated by the fact that the rulemaking does not provide an explanation or a definition for construction tolerances. However, we believe that elements and structures that are human created (i.e., manufactured) should be designed and built to be as accessible as possible.
Question 14 page 34080
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. However, as we stated in question 10, we do understand that a minimum scoping standard should apply. Therefore, scoping provisions for new components or features, whether on an accessible trail or not, should be the same as for other components. For example, scoping provisions for picnic tables not on accessible routes should be the same as on inaccessible routes.
Question 15 page 34081
Constructing a beach access route every ½ mile along a new beach is a reasonable requirement. Therefore, we suggest that that T205.2 remain as it is.
Question 16 page 34081
We believe that there are other situations for which site infeasibility would preclude compliance with technical provisions for a beach access route. T205.3 should add another exception for consideration of changes in water levels, conditions, and location due to natural environmental changes.
For example, a beach access route may not be able to be constructed or maintained when natural environmental changes have taken place thereby making it impossible to create a route or to restore an existing route. Such conditions could include:
Question 17 page 34081
If a new parking lot is constructed adjoining a beach and that new parking lot includes some type of amenities (such as bathroom facilities, water fountains, picnic tables, concession stands, outdoor rinsing shower, information booth, etc) then we believe a beach access route should also be provided. We believe that the existence of amenities with the parking lot should be the trigger for this exception, not the total number of parking spaces that are provided.
This coincides with our underlying belief that the more an outdoor area is developed, the more access should be provided.
Question 18 page 34082
We feel that we need further clarification as to what the Board includes when it refers to beach nourishment. If a beach nourishment project incorporates any new beach area, then a beach access route should be required. If a beach nourishment project alters the size or character of the beach, then it should require the creation of a beach access route.
If the definition of beach nourishment includes any type of projects that expands or alters the characteristics of an existing beach, then a beach access route should be required. If this broader definition of beach nourishment is what the Board is utilizing, then exception number 5 in T205.3 should be eliminated completely.
We also suggest adding another exception to the list of exceptions for T205.3 to protect federal land that has been designated as a conservation management area for the protection of Rare, Threatened, or Endangered species. If federal land is being specifically managed for protection of RTE species or has other unique conservation management priorities, then beach access routes should not be required to be constructed over existing or new beaches on lands in this status.
Question 19 page 34087
Yes, open drainage structures are the only structures where this departure should be permitted.
Question 20 page 34088
Outdoor Recreation Access Routes (ORAR) should be treated differently than a trail and therefore conditions that permit departure from the technical provisions should not apply. An ORAR is more of a connector or circulation route, as opposed to a trail which is designed for a recreation experience.
Question 21 page 34088
As stated in question 20, we do not believe that T302 exceptions should apply to ORARs. Furthermore, we do not believe that either option presented is appropriate. A running slope should not exceed a 1:12 over the entire length of the ORAR.
Question 22 page 34088
The NPRM requires that a Beach Access Route extend to the high tide level, mean river bed level, or the normal recreation water level. We believe that these markers are appropriate, but would suggest the addition of definitions for these markers in T.305.3. We also suggest the addition of a sentence to this requirement to provide that “The Beach Access Route shall extend to a point at which a user can safely and effectively enter the body of water.”
Question 23 page 34088
If an entity decides to provide a route into the water, then this route should follow the requirements already outlined in guidelines created for aquatics and marinas for transfers, ramp slopes, lift design characteristics, etc.
Question 24 page 34090
Deciding upon which type of technical provisions should be recommended is beyond our expertise; however, controls and operating mechanisms for fireplaces should be as accessible as possible, ideally allowing for one-handed operation.
Question 25 page 34092
The International Symbol of Accessibility is NOT recommended for use in designating a trail as accessible.
However, given the options presented in the NPRM (which include the International Symbol of Accessibility) we do have opinions as to which is the best option among the choices.
Page 34131: We recommend top left icon and green in color to designate a trail as an accessible trail.
For additional information on the trail sign, we recommend:
Page 34131: Add wheelchair icon with walker; use grade profile from lower Yosemite design.
We like the elements in both sign examples shown on pages 34134 and 34135. We prefer the general layout on the Happy Falls Trail. Suggest we alternate icons as follows:
Page 34134: Happy Falls Trail
Average Grade: wheelchair icon
Average Cross Slope: Hiker (leave icon as is)
Average Tread Width: wheelchair icon
Trail Surface: Hiker (leave icon as is)
Substitute Grade Profile shown on Lower Yosemite Fall Trail sign for Trail Profile on Happy Falls Trail sign.
Again, we encourage the addition of information to inform the user as to how far they can go on a trail before they cannot go any further.
Question 26 page 34093
NPRM T322 establishes criteria for protruding objects, including a minimum 80” head clearance. The regulatory-negotiation committee could not reach agreement to permit a complete departure from this provision if, on a trail, the minimum overhead clearance could not be provided.
We support retaining the application of the 4 conditions for departure with regard to protruding objects. However, we suggest that surface treatments (such as crushed stone or gravel) be included to warn of a protrusion or hazard on a trail.