Accessibility Guidelines for Outdoor Areas Released

On September 26 the U.S. Access Board issued new accessibility guidelines for outdoor areas on federal lands . The guidelines provide detailed specifications for accessible trails, picnic and camping areas, viewing areas, beach access routes, and other components of outdoor developed areas when newly built or altered. They also provide exceptions for situations where terrain and other factors make compliance impracticable.

Requirements for trails and pedestrian access routes address surface characteristics, width, grade, and cross slope. Exceptions are included for these and other provisions under certain conditions stipulated in the guidelines. Departures are allowed where compliance is not practicable because of terrain or prevailing construction practices. Exceptions are also recognized where compliance would conflict with mandates such as the Endangered Species Act and other laws or where it would fundamentally alter a site's function or purpose.

Under this rulemaking, the Access Board is first developing guidelines under the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) for outdoor developed areas managed by the federal government . Guidelines for non-federal sites covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will be developed separately at a later date. The federal guidelines originate from recommendations that were prepared by the Outdoor Developed Areas Regulatory Negotiation Committee, an advisory panel chartered by the Access Board, of which American Trails was a member.

The rule applies to federal agencies that develop outdoor areas for recreational purposes, including the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Reclamation. The new requirements will become mandatory on November 25, 2013 as part of the Architectural Barriers Act Accessibility Standards , which apply to facilities that are built, altered, or leased with federal funds.

Learn more and hear questions answered at the Access Board webinar on the Federal Accessibility Guidelines scheduled for October 17 from 2:30 to 4:00 pm (EASTERN TIME). Sign-up at .

--Information provided by American Trails