QUESTION: Michele, is it true that the Access Board has new guidelines for outdoor areas? I hope so! I’m a wheelchair user who loves the outdoors. —Kikki, Wyoming

ANSWER: Yes, but be aware that it is for federal outdoor developed areas only. However, that doesn’t mean others shouldn’t use it! The Access Board’s recent announcement, states that the guidelines are also good for nonfederal entities to follow.

What you should know about the Final Guidelines for Outdoor Developed Areas:

  • They apply to federal agencies that develop outdoor areas for recreational purposes, including the National Park Service, the Forest Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau of Reclamation
  • They provide detailed specifications for accessible trails, picnic and camping areas, viewing areas, beach access routes, and other components of outdoor developed areas when newly built or altered.
Outdoor Developed Areas: A Summary of Accessibility Standards for Federal Outdoor Developed Areas
Outdoor Developed Areas: A Summary of Accessibility Standards for Federal Outdoor Developed Areas

All of this is explained in a new, 100-page document that serves as a companion resource. The guide describes the intent of various requirements and how they can be met.

This new guide discusses provisions for trails and trailheads, outdoor recreation access routes, and beach access routes such as those addressing surface characteristics, width, and running and cross slopes. Outdoor constructed features—including viewing areas, camp sites, tent pads and platforms, picnic tables, grills, fire rings, and toilet and bathing facilities—are also covered. In addition, the guide explains exceptions in the guidelines that may apply where compliance is not practicable because of terrain, prevailing construction practices, or other specified conditions.