Web Exclusive - July 2014
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Removing Park Barriers

Golden Gate National Recreation Area

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area attracts more than 13 million visitors per year. Situated along 75,000 acres of land and water from San Mateo to Marin County, it is the country's largest national park in an urban area and encompasses a range of landmarks, from Alcatraz and the Presidio to the Marin Headlands and Muir Woods.

While the park has long included boardwalks and other paths that may accommodate wheelchairs, it didn't include routes and plans to provide meaningful access to the disabled, according to those who filed the suit. The settlement will provide visitors with mobility and vision disabilities greater access to trails, beaches, facilities, exhibits, publications and visitor's centers. A few highlights include:

  • Wheelchair access to trails at Lands End, Marin Headlands, Mori Point and Muir Woods.
  • Beach access routes at several popular beaches.
  • Beach wheelchairs and seasonal, wheelchair-accessible beach mats at many of the most popular Bay Area beaches.
  • Braille, audio and tactile orientation signs, guides and route maps for visitors with vision impairments.
  • Park staff and volunteer accessibility training and availability to lead guided tours for disabled visitors.
  • Expanded access reviews for new construction and alterations to ensure full access compliance.
  • A dedicated maintenance fund to ensure that existing and new access features are kept in accessible condition.

In addition to these and a host of other required access improvement projects, GGNRA has committed to spend at least $3 million completing other accessibility projects including the construction of a boardwalk at one or more beaches in Marin County, accessible picnicking and restrooms at Rodeo Beach and adding the new Quick Response Code access features to existing wayside exhibits. QR codes allow visitors with smart phones to access the complete information in the exhibit in multiple accessible formats.

"GGNRA contains some of the world's most beautiful and historically significant sites," said Disability Rights Advocates' Executive Director Larry Paradis. "People with disabilities for too long have been excluded from many of the experiences offered by national parks, experiences that many people cherish. These range from watching a sunset from an ocean-side beach, to visiting the redwoods, to walking a trail through wilderness, to visiting historic structures. This settlement provides a model for federal and state parks nationwide to be inclusive of all people in our community."

The case points out the importance of adjusting our definitions of accessibility to include more than just the mobility-impaired. Other disabilities that ought to be considered, whether you're planning a park, a playground, a picnic area or a trail, include vision impairment, cognitive disabilities and more.