News from Idaho SILC

Different disability advocacy groups around the state are working together to figure out how to make outdoor recreation more accessible. This is a monumental task, as disability is very personal and what one person can do, another with the same disability may not be able to do.

The group is working to define some accessible characteristics, and make that information available to people with disabilities who want to get out and recreate. 

Oregon’s State Parks addressed this same issue, and outlined a finalized plan to make the state parks more accessible by removing barriers that have made enjoying a park difficult or even impossible for many visitors. Better signage, ramps, accessible bathroom stalls are all part of this plan.

In their work, they identified 4,872 barriers at 273 state facilities. These barriers were in nearly every part of the park, including fee machines that are inaccessible, trails that are too narrow and fire extinguishers that are placed out of reach.

Three main issues – doors, parking lots and restrooms – make up over half of all the barriers.

Then they ranked each barrier on how easy it was to fix. The easiest ones will be done within five years. Bigger projects that require more planning and funding will take up to 25 years. The process will begin this July.

This long term plan is called an ADA Transition Plan, and is to ensure equal participation in public life for all Americans with disabilities.

More than 30 years after the passage of the ADA, many other state and local government agencies have yet to improve facilities for accessibility. Idaho is hoping to put together a similar list of barrier removal as well.

Sometimes, simple obstacles make the natural beauty of the outdoors inaccessible. Gates and barriers intended to keep motorized vehicles off paved trails also keep wheelchair users off. It’s a simple solution to remove the barriers and still preserve the trails so the natural world is equally available to people with disabilities.