GARY ROBB: Good afternoon. My name is Gary Robb. I’m director of the national center on at Indiana University (inaudible) and tourism studies. First of all, I want to thank you all for allowing me to accompany you accompany you yesterday on your trip to Rocky Mountain National Park. It was very enjoyable and I appreciate the opportunity. And despite Bill’s omission I was on the regulatory negotiating committee as well and I’ll tell you that it was one of the most grueling processes that I’ve ever been involved in, and but I can tell you that every single person on that committee took what we were doing very seriously and we have members that we will long remember, some fondly and some quite frankly not so fondly.
I’d like to limit my comments to just a couple of general statements about the notice, and to go on record on a few of the specific provisions.
Our staff in the National Center on Accessibility has spent a good deal of time going through the notice and have some concerns about clarity and consistency that we will submit in written comments.
First, a couple of generic comments. The regulatory negotiating committee truly represented a broad cross section of interested and invested individuals and organizations. Many organizational representatives received input throughout the two year process from their constituents. Therefore, I would urge you, as the board, to seriously and thoughtfully consider that investment when developing the final regulation.
The second comment is that clarity is critical. Throughout the proposed rule, for those of us who have been working with this for several years, many most of it is fairly clear, but I’ve had a number of people ask me, “Well, what does that mean?” Or, “Isn’t that a contradiction?” And so I would urge you to take a close look at that, and we will also identify those areas for you in our written comments.
One of the one of the questions of clarity that I did want to mention is the required application, or not, of the outdoor recreation access route to beach access.
On Page 34079, first paragraph, first column, it’s stated that when a beach is fronted by a park or other outdoor developed area, the route over the surface to the edge and beginning of the beach surface may be considered an outdoor recreation access route.
However, in the third paragraph, in the same column, same page, the definition of an outdoor recreation access route does not include beaches.
Now, while this distinction may be clear to those or to some or to many, it’s likely to be confusing to others. As to if the outdoor recreation access route really applies to beaches or not.
Now, some specific comments.
First of all excuse me on trail accessibility. As is suggested in the notice, the regulatory negotiating committee spent many hours and, in fact, days deliberating the various options for determining when and where trail accessibility should be required. It was, indeed, the most discussed issue of the negotiations and the most contentious issue.
The very first question in the notice of proposed rule making asked the public to comment on, if the board should revisit some of the approaches considered during the reg process. While the question is certainly appropriate, we would strongly urge the board to take into account the extensive discussions and deliberations and the ultimate consensus of the committee. More than anything, the current proposed so called exceptions approach should be maintained. Of all of the considered approaches, it’s the only one that provides practical solutions and full consideration of all potentials of accessibility. It’s the only one that basically tells the consumer that they do not have to be automatically restricted to urban trails or trails in other moderately developed areas, and it’s the only one that allows accessibility to be considered in all environments, at least at the outset.
This approach also provides a resource manager with many opportunities to opt out of accessibility, where the resource would be compromised or the experience not preserved.
At the same time, this method takes more of the personal judgments and bias out of the mix. Quoting a reputable trail designer that we worked with and who has been designing accessible trails for over 25 years, he states, “The guidelines provide the trail designer and builder with the flexibility to provide accessibility on many trails that were previously thought to be inaccessible.”
And I’d like to give one real quick example that I observed yesterday.
When we stopped at the park where the engineer we looked at the engineered wood fiber, I happened to walk down a trail to the right about a half a mile, and at the very outset of that trail, a sign said that it was a primitive trail and that permits for primitive camping had to be obtained.
However so and I walked down that trail for over half a mile and could see for probably another half a mile and there’s absolutely no reason why that trail with very minimum modifications and certainly no damage to the resource could not meet these guidelines.
And if we were using the environment first approach, accessibility might be lost accessibility opportunities might be lost for people who were really looking for a more primitive experience.
Another point is: When is a trail not a trail?
Over the past several years, our center has been involved in conducting numerous accessibility evaluations of outdoor areas around the country. One of the striking observations and concerns is the definition of a trail. We have found that many entities call trails call trails what we believe are really access routes. While recognizing that an entity can call a path anything that they want, there needs to be a very clear distinction as to which guidelines will be applied during construction or when conducting an accessibility assessment. Especially in urban park settings.
We have a concern about multiuse trails and specifically those shared with equestrians. To quote a trail designer builder, with these limited trail dimensions, as proposed, the size and weight of the average horse and the size of the average mobility device, and the physiological and behavioral makeup of horses, this situation could lead to serious user conflicts and safety issues.
Surface firmness and stability. Of the thousands of questions that our accessibility specialists receive each year, the one question most often asked is about trail surface options and firmness and stability requirements.
We believe that more research is required and more individuals with disabilities, including children, need to be involved in helping to determine the appropriate values for firmness and stability. We also believe that more research needs to be conducted to find alternative, less cumbersome, methods of measuring firmness and stability.
And a related question related to that is that we believe that we believe needs to be addressed is: Do firmness and stability values need to change as slope and cross slope increases? We believe that it does.
It also has been suggested by another trail designer that we’ve talked with that there should be language in the regulations that provides specific lengths for the transition zone where a trail grade goes, say, from 5% to 10%, in order to eliminate the pitch effect. And while there is some advisory comments about that on Page 34118, we believe that that should be part of the actual rule.
Finally, we believe that general exceptions should be reviewed. In our work over the past seven years, it’s been very difficult to explain or to justify the extreme conditions and the values or numbers that were arrived at by the regulatory negotiating committee.
A trail designer that we worked with and who has developed numerous accessible trails has also suggested and we agree that the general exceptions should be limited to existing trails and not be applied to new trails.
Finally, beach access and beach access routes. We’re very concerned about exception nubmer 6. We believe that that does not require a beach access route if a, a pedestrian route currently exists. And it’s elevated higher than 6 inches. We believe that this will eliminate much opportunity for access to beaches and we will strongly urge the board to eliminate exception number 6.
We have other concerns and comments that we will provide in written comment. Thank you for this opportunity and for the hard work of the Access Board staff in bringing these proposed guidelines forward. When final, they will not only provide needed guidance to resource managers, but more importantly, will serve as a catalyst for greater accessibility to outdoor areas by citizens with disabilities. Thank you.
[Additional remarks made after all registered speakers concluded their testimony.]
GARY ROBB: Very briefly, I wanted to touch on tent pads. I want the tent pad edge protection requirement. They are used tent pads are used as for transfers by mobility device users, and I’m concerned about the requirement for a 3 inch edge protection around the entire pad. And what kind of a difficulty that might create for someone who intends to transfer that way. And since probably all tent pads will not have ramps.
So I would just think that clarity might be required on that.
And I wanted to just go back and make a couple of other comments about my our concern about exception number 6 on the beach access route, the one that states that it that beach access route would not require access across a beach surface if a pedestrian route currently exists along the edge of the existing beach and is elevated higher than 6 inches.
I just wanted to state that as a member of the committee, I don’t ever recall a discussion about that. I don’t ever recall us coming to consensus about that. And I talked to other members of the committee, as well as people who were on the subcommittee on beach access, and they don’t recall that discussion as well.
And so I just want to reiterate that we believe that this exception will greatly reduce beach access and we strongly urge it to be eliminated. Thank you.