Outdoor recreation is for everybody! The Accessibility in Outdoor Recreation: Policy Scan highlights policy tools that state and local governments can use to make recreational spaces safe, healthy, and more inclusive for people of all abilities. Special thanks to our friends over at AIM-4-Access for assisting us with this project.
It’s not difficult to find spaces for outdoor recreation in the United States—almost 40% of the country is public land, managed by government agencies at the federal, state, and local levels. However, this public space is not distributed equally or equitably across our communities, meaning that while some people have ready access to parks and trails, others lack safe, accessible places to be outside.
Despite landmark legislation passed decades ago, many outdoor recreation spaces are still completely or partially inaccessible for people with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 is an important piece of civil rights legislation that led to vast improvements for accessibility in public spaces around the US, but its guidelines are targeted toward a developed, “built” environment. The convergence between the natural landscape and constructed environments, such as trails, make it difficult for agencies and land managers to know how to make more public space accessible to more people.
The purpose of this Policy Scan is to highlight examples of policies at the federal, state, and local levels that meaningfully contribute to making outdoor recreation accessible to disabilities communities. Our hope is that through a clearer understanding of which policies already exist, policymakers at all levels can enact legislation that honors the dignity of all individuals and sets a high standard for accessibility in all outdoor recreation spaces.