News From LINC, Inc

Making the Rugged Outdoors more Accessible!

Roger Howard was inspecting an Idaho campground when a nearby camper said he hoped Howard didn’t “ruin the outdoors.” He was assessing the campsite for compliance with the ADA looking for features like accessible restrooms and parking spaces that would help more people use the site. It’s part of the role of Executive Director of a Center for Independent Living, organizations that help people with disabilities lead more independent lives.

The same sentiment came up in Pullman, Washington, when a citizen objected to paving an accessible trail into a city park saying “It would ruin it.” And this was a city bond that passed with an overwhelming percentage. But people still voice the sentiment about accessibility “ruining the outdoors”.

Howard said he took a moment to talk with camper, who worried “accessibility” meant more pavement and fewer trees and trails – essentially turning the outdoors into more of a city park. But by the end of the conversation, the camper had not only changed his tune, but began to offer suggestions for even more improvements. 

It is possible to update equipment and facilities to accommodate different needs while still maintaining the ruggedness of the out of doors.   

Idaho has been working with civil engineers to utilize universal design to make buildings, products, and programs more usable by all people.  That’s not to say that accessibility means removing the primitive element. They try to strike a balance between the natural, primitive environment without creating barriers. The ADA offers guidelines on trails which include trail materials, trail width, signage and more. Howard said many people with disabilities don’t want to see the outdoors changed drastically. 

Not only is demand for access growing, attitudes about disability access have shifted too. The aging of America is exposing more people to the need for access. So let’s keep the momentum going forward so there is less comments  like “you are going to ruin the outdoors”.