Problem Solver - August 2007
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Improving Park Accessibility

We understand the importance of complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act, but we'd like to go one step further to really encourage disabled patrons to enjoy our facilities.

There are many ways to improve accessibility to your park amenities, and nearly every park element can be made accessible. You might be surprised to learn that there are 54 million Americans-one in five people-living with a disability. Unfortunately, less than half of them engage in physical activities. Your goal to make your recreational facility more accessible will make it more inviting for those who need it. It's not only a good idea to provide access for people with disabilities, but it's the law. Plus, it makes sense economically, and it goes a long way to making your park part of the community as a whole.

To start, you need to be sure you're following the rules set out by the ADA. Take your picnic table, for example: It needs to be at least 28 inches high for proper wheelchair accessibility, 30 inches wide and 19 inches deep. For added convenience, place these accessible picnic tables close to a parking lot, with an appropriate curb and path to get there. And don't worry, you're not limited to one utilitarian look. Accessible picnic tables come in a wide variety of colors and materials, including wood, aluminum, recycled plastic, concrete and steel. You'll find them in rectangles, but also in interesting shapes, like round and hexagonal.

Do your patrons like to grill? Make that activity universal, too, with an accessible campfire ring that is designed to allow for a person in a wheelchair to use it with ease. The great thing is that all campers can use these. Some manufacturers offer them with a full-height outer ring as a heat barrier for the inner ring; draft holes feed air into the space between the rings.

Other items that you can use to welcome people with disabilities to your park include accessible portable toilets with interior turning circles of 60 inches or more and door frames that accommodate wheelchair entry.

Since you've done the work to make your park accessible, just be sure to advertise that through signage and media attention.

Belson Outdoors Inc.: