Feature Article - January 2011
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Are You Accessible?

Tips From the Pros on Compliance With New ADA Standards

By Margaret Ahrweiler

Field Accessibility

While fitness centers are a relatively easy fix, meeting the 2010 standards for the flat surfaces of another busy area—playing fields—can prove more challenging. Making playing fields accessible for spectators gets tricky when it comes to traversing long distances between parking lots and the events.

A handicapped parking space doesn't help visitors if they can't get from that lot to the field, noted Indiana's York. Again, thinking beyond wheelchairs can help facility managers appreciate the importance of access, she added. Without an accessible route, grandparents may not be able to attend a child's soccer game, or an injured player cannot get to the bench of his team's football game.

Addressing this problem doesn't have to mean paving over large chunks of playing field to create access paths. On game days in Wheaton's large parks, roving golf carts take spectators with mobility problems to and from playing fields.

The new standards also address seating in arenas, stadiums and other facilities more specifically than in the past. While the number of seats required has been reduced, spectator seating cannot isolate disabled patrons from the rest of their group. Disabled access seats must provide a space for family and friends to sit as well.

"We all have social groups we want to enjoy—friends, family, fellow fans. We wouldn't want to be isolated from them and neither do disabled people," York said. "You have to remember that disabled people have discretionary income, and they're going to spend it elsewhere if your facilities aren't up to par."

Access to More Information

The complete standards, including technical and architectural specifications, are available at the U.S. Access Board's Web site.

The Access to Recreation Initiative, begun in 2006, provides plenty of examples on accessible design and success stories to provide ideas for rec facilities seeking to improve accessibility.

This federal agency oversees accessibility guidelines.

The National Center On Accessibility, part of Indiana University's Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Studies, promotes accessibility in rec and leisure facilities.

The Center for Universal Design provides information on universal design, which the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.