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ADA & ABA Accessibility Issues

During my twenty-four years of visiting parks and accessible trails I have documented several accessibility issues. It is one of the main reasons for my book, ADA & ABA Illustrated Guide to Parks and Trails. This reference guide follows the Federal standards for parks and accessible trails. What are the ADA & ABA standards?

2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design (ADA) 

Sets minimum requirements, both scoping and technical, for newly designed and constructed or altered state and local government facilities, public accommodations, and commercial facilities to be readily accessible to and

usable by individuals with disabilities.


2015 Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) Accessibility Standards (ABA)

Provides scoping and technical requirements for accessibility to sites, facilities, buildings, and elements by individuals with disabilities. The requirements are to be applied during the design, construction, addition to, alteration, and lease of sites, facilities, buildings, and elements to the extent required by regulations issued by federal agencies under the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 (ABA).

On this page, I will post photos of a few accessibility issues I have encountered, along with my personal comments. 

All photos also come from my book, ADA & ABA Illustrated Guide to Parks and Trails.


Access Next to a Bench

There should be enough room on one side of a bench for a wheelchair user or someone using a mobility device. 

Federal standards: A minimum of 36 inches (914 mm) by 48 inches (1,220 mm) of clear ground space is required. 

Accessible Trail not Passable

Though this trail looks fine for an able-bodied hiker, a wheelchair user would have trouble navigating it due to the overgrowth encroaching on the path. In this instance, I had to turn around due to the wheels of my wheelchair getting caught up from the plants and uneven ground.

Federal standards: The clear width of trails must be a minimum of 36 inches (915 mm) and must be maintained for the entire distance of the trail and may not be reduced by gates, barriers, or other obstacles.


Accessible Parking in Wrong Area

Accessible parking is another problem I have experienced in which the parking spot(s) are not located by a trailhead.

The problem is that a wheelchair person has to travel behind vehicles in order to reach the trail. Maybe the park or recreational planners thought that accessible parking should be next to a restroom, which I can understand.

Visitors are there mostly, though, to use the park facilities, like picnic table, or to go hiking. Not all visitors are going to use the restroom. The priority then should be for the accessible parking be located next to the trailhead.

The best solution is to have the restroom by the trailhead. Or, have a sidewalk in front of the parking spots, giving safe passage to both the restroom and the trail.

​Federal standards: Parking spaces that serve a particular building or facility shall be located on the shortest accessible route from parking spaces to an accessible entrance. Where parking serves more than one accessible entrance, parking spaces shall be dispersed and located on the shortest accessible route to each of the accessible entrances. 

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Because the accessible parking spot is next to the restroom, a wheelchair user will need to

travel behind vehicles to reach the trailhead

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A wheelchair user has a low profile, and as you can see in this image, the driver of the black vehicle would have trouble seeing me. More than once, I have almost been hit by a vehicle backing up.

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This is a much better solution for safe passage. Accessible parking spots are located next to

the restroom and trail entrance.

Soap dispenser out of reach

This is one of the most common problems I have encountered over the years. A soap dish mounted too high and out of reach for someone sitting in a wheelchair.

Federal standards: If soap and towel dispensers are provided they needed to be mounted 44 inches (1,220 mm) to 48 inches (1,120 mm). Measurements are from ADA Standards - Forward Reach Range. (This also applies to paper towel dispensers)

After contacting the appropriate agency, the soap dispenser was mounted to 44 inches from the floor.

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Uneven Ground Hazard

IAs you can see in this photo, the ground is very uneven and has a deep rut. A wheelchair user would have difficulty going past this. My electric wheelchair actually became stuck at this spot, and I needed help to get free. After contacting the appropriate agency, it was regraded and fixed.

Federal standards: The surfaces of trails, passing spaces, and resting intervals must be firm and stable. A firm trail surface resists deformation by indenta­tions. A stable trail surface is not permanently affected by expected weather conditions and can sustain normal wear and tear from the expected uses between planned maintenances.

Parking Space Identification Signs

In this image the identification signs are not high enough.

Federal standards: Signs shall be 60 inches (1,525 mm) minimum above the finish floor or ground surface measured to the bottom of the sign. In some cases though this might not be possible.

Also, it is important to maintain the wheelchair accessible icon so that it is more visible.

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