Accessibility is a Mindset, Not a Box to Check
The Accessibility Toolkit for Land Managers is an informative document meant to help land managers design and maintain with equity and inclusion as a priority. Physical accessibility features on public lands often leave people with disabilities desiring more, the quarter-mile paved trail that’s ADA is a necessary feature but often results in no further accessible efforts being made to the location.
Funding is often the culprit, ADA projects are costly and very time-consuming. But good news land managers, this toolkit identifies other things we can do every day to improve access. Shifting the lens of design you use to update and maintain public lands with, can drastically improve someone’s ability to experience the outdoors. With small shifts in understanding and some creative thinking, together we can expand the vision of access and remove some of the barriers land managers face.
The toolkit dives into what equity and access look like, who we’re talking about with examples of demographics, commonly used equipment, and desired recreation. We discuss shifting the lens and give tips to think creatively about accessibility in projects. It calls out some of the most common barriers for those with physical disabilities and solutions that require simple adjustments to practices. Quick tips with dimensions and examples are included along with resources and ways of connecting with the community for further inclusion work.
For this project, I interviewed land managers and people with physical disabilities from across the state to find out what was desired and needed on both sides of the issue. It was clear that the most simple adjustments to land management processes were often the barriers people with disabilities were facing. Things like surface cover and distance between vehicle barriers make all the difference in access. For land managers, they expressed a desire to know more, so this project is focused on bridging that communication barrier and asking for what is desired and giving the resources to promote inclusion in simple, time and cost-effective ways. A lot was learned about both communities and how we can work together for more access and inclusion on public lands. This is just the beginning!