Problem Solver - August 2008
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Ensuring Park Accessibility

With more than 54 million disabled Americans—less than half of whom claim to engage in physical activities—it's imperative to ensure that your parks and sites are accessible. And with the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in July 1990, it became a legal imperative as well.

According to data from the 2002 National Health Interview Survey, conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, the most frequently mentioned barriers to participation in community activities were design problems. Among people with disabilities who reported that barriers limited or prevented their community participation, some frequently mentioned problems included crowds, sidewalks and curbs, among others. In addition, just over 2 percent said poorly designed equipment presented a problem.

Part of outfitting your park includes purchasing and placing site components that maximize accessibility, preventing these problems.

Q: I want to ensure our parks offer accessible components. What do I need to know?

A: There are many ways to improve accessibility at your parks, and nearly every site component can be improved and made more accessible. Your supplier can point you to ADA-compliant, handicapped-accessible products, from picnic tables and drinking fountains to campfire rings and grills.

There are specific rules, for example, associated with picnic tables, including minimum knee space, toe clearance and more.

Don't stop with the seating. You can help your disabled patrons enjoy their picnic with accessible campfire rings, grills, drinking fountains and toilets, as well.

But beyond ensuring your site furnishings are designed for accessibility, you also need to ensure you place them correctly. If you put your accessible picnic table and grill in the middle of a hilly meadow, for example, wheelchair users are going to have a hard time reaching the spot

The key to ensuring those who need accessibility are able to use your site is placing site furnishings along accessible paths. These should be of sufficient width to allow wheelchair use, and the surface itself should also be accessible.

Q: How can I ensure my accessible components fit in?

A: Manufacturers provide a huge array of color and material options. You can select from wood, recycled plastic, steel, concrete and more in a rainbow of colors.

Belson Outdoors Inc.: