Chapter 1: Background

1.1 Introduction

The Access Board prepared this regulatory assessment pursuant to Executive Order 12866 for a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to issue accessibility guidelines for outdoor developed areas. The guidelines apply to the construction or alteration of camping and picnic areas, trails, and other outdoor developed areas by Federal agencies. The Architectural Barriers Act requires these facilities to be accessible to individuals with disabilities.[1]

The Access Board is required by the Rehabilitation Act to establish minimum accessibility guidelines for facilities covered by the Architectural Barriers Act.[2] After the Access Board publishes the accessibility guidelines for outdoor developed areas, the General Services Administration and Department of Defense will adopt the guidelines as the accessibility standards that Federal agencies are required to use when constructing or altering outdoor developed areas covered by the Architectural Barriers Act.[3]

1.2 Federal Agencies Affected by Guidelines

The accessibility guidelines for outdoor developed areas affect the Federal agencies listed below that manage public lands which have among their uses camping and picnicking, hiking, and other outdoor recreational activities.[4] Information on camping and picnic areas, trails, and other outdoor developed areas constructed or altered by the Federal land management agencies is presented in subsequent chapters.

Department of Agriculture

The Forest Service manages 155 National Forests and 22 National Grasslands on 192 acres in 42 states, territories, and commonwealths. The National Forests and Grasslands receive 205 million visits annually.

Department of the Interior

The National Park Service manages 58 National Parks and 332 other recreational and cultural sites on 85 million acres in 53 states and territories. The National Parks and the other National Park Service recreational and cultural sites receive 271 million visits annually.

The Fish and Wildlife Service manages 545 National Wildlife Refuges on 94 million acres in 52 states and territories. The National Wildlife Refuges receive 73 million visits annually.

The Bureau of Land Management manages 3,496 recreational sites on 262 million acres in 12 western states. The Bureau of Land Management recreational sites receive 56 million visits annually.

The Bureau of Reclamation manages 1,070 recreational sites on 9 million acres in 17 western states. The Bureau of Reclamation recreational sites receive 90 million visits annually.

Department of Defense

The Army Corps of Engineers manages 4,000 recreational sites at 456 projects (mostly lakes) on 12 million acres in 43 states. The Army Corps of Engineers recreational sites receive 375 million visits annually.

1.3 Need for Guidelines for Outdoor Developed Areas

The Access Board has issued accessibility guidelines for many of the facilities covered by the Architectural Barriers Act. These guidelines are known as the Architectural Barriers Act Accessibility Guidelines (ABAAG).[5] ABAAG contains provisions that apply to some facilities constructed or altered in outdoor developed areas by the Federal land management agencies such as parking areas, visitor centers, restrooms and bathing facilities, fishing piers and platforms, and boating docks and marinas. However, ABAAG does not address other spaces and elements constructed or altered in outdoor developed areas by the Federal land management agencies such as recreational vehicle and tent camping spaces, picnic tables, fire rings, and pedestal grills.

The accessibility guidelines for outdoor developed areas contain provisions for the construction or alteration of spaces and elements in outdoor developed areas that are not addressed in ABAAG. The guidelines also establish new provisions for outdoor recreation access routes, trails, and beach access routes. Finally, the guidelines provide exceptions for conditions that exist in the outdoor environment.

The accessibility guidelines for outdoor develop areas will enable the Federal land management agencies to comply with the Architectural Barriers Act when constructing or altering spaces and elements in outdoor developed areas that are not addressed in ABAAG.

1.4 Guidelines History

The accessibility guidelines for outdoor developed areas are consensus guidelines that were developed through regulatory negotiation.[6] The Federal land management agencies participated on the regulatory negotiation committee that developed the guidelines along with other organizations whose interests are affected by the guidelines.[7] The regulatory negotiation committee worked on the guidelines for two years from June 1997 to September 1999.[8]

The accessibility guidelines for outdoor developed areas initially were intended to also apply to state and local governments and private entities under the Americans with Disabilities Act.[9] However, the Access Board was unable to find sufficient information to prepare a regulatory assessment of the impacts of the guidelines on State and local governments and private entities that construct or alter camping and picnic areas, trails, and other outdoor developed areas. The Access Board subsequently decided to limit the application of the guidelines to the Federal land management agencies under the Architectural Barriers Act.[10]

1.5 Baselines

Regulatory actions are compared to a baseline to estimate their costs and benefits. The baseline is a reasonable assessment of what would happen in the absence of the regulatory action, the status quo. The accessibility policies and practices of the Federal land management agencies have evolved over 30 years. The Federal land management agencies’ accessibility policies and practices before and after the regulatory negotiation committee recommended the accessibility guidelines for outdoor developed areas are discussed below.

Federal Land Management Agency Accessibility Policies and Practices Before the Regulatory Negotiation Committee

Since 1978, the Federal land management agencies had a separate obligation under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act to ensure that their newly constructed or altered facilities are accessible to individuals with disabilities.[11] The Federal land management agencies initially used the American National Standard Institutes’ (ANSI) accessibility standard for buildings and then the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS) as the accessibility standard for their facilities.[12] Although the ANSI standard and UFAS did not contain specific provisions for camping and picnic areas, trails, and other outdoor developed areas, the Federal land management agencies applied the technical provisions in the ANSI standard and UFAS for accessible routes, clear floor and maneuvering space, ground surfaces, and reach ranges to the extent possible when constructing or altering these facilities.[13] In 1985, the Access Board convened a Federal Working Group on Access to Recreation Facilities to review existing practices for designing accessible outdoor recreation facilities. All the Federal land management agencies participated in the working group, and recommended provisions for designing accessible camping and picnic areas and trails. The National Park Service published these provisions in 1989 to use as a supplement to UFAS.[14]

In 1992, the National Park Service entered into a cooperative agreement with the Indiana University, Department of Park and Recreation Administration, to establish a National Center on Accessibility for developing best practice materials and training programs on accessibility for outdoor recreation facilities. The National Center on Accessibility has trained over 1,850 National Park Service personnel from 240 parks on best practices for designing accessible outdoor recreation facilities, including camping and picnic areas and trails. The National Center on Accessibility has also provided training programs on designing accessible outdoor recreation facilities for the other Federal land management agencies.

In 1993, “Universal Access to Outdoor Recreation: A Design Guide” was published. The design guide was developed through a public/private partnership between Project Play and Learning in Adaptable Environments, Inc. (PLAE) and the Forest Service.[15] The design guide included provisions for accessible camping and picnic areas and trails and was used by the Forest Service.

The Federal land management agencies also assigned accessibility managers and accessibility coordinators at the national, regional, and local levels to provide direction and support for implementing the agencies’ accessibility policies and practices. Thus, prior to the regulatory negotiation committee, the Federal land management agencies were for the most part at the forefront: demonstrating best practices, publishing design guides, providing training, and assigning accessibility managers and accessibility coordinators to ensure that the construction and alterations of camping and picnic areas and trails were accessible to individuals with disabilities.

Federal Land Management Agency Accessibility Policies and Practices After the Regulatory Negotiation Committee

As discussed earlier in this chapter, the Federal land management agencies, as well as the National Center on Accessibility, were members of the regulatory negotiation committee that recommended the accessibility guidelines for outdoor developed areas. The regulatory negotiation committee built on the earlier work of the Federal land management agencies. The Federal land management agencies in turn used the work of the regulatory negotiation committee to refine their accessibility policies and practices.

The Forest Service prepared the “Forest Service Outdoor Recreation Accessibility Guidelines” (FSORAG) and “Forest Service Trails Accessibility Guidelines” (FSTAG) based on the work of the regulatory negotiation committee.[16] The Forest Service amended the Forest Service Manual to require all construction and alteration projects in the National Forest System to use FSORAG and FSTAG.[17] FSORAG goes beyond the guidelines recommended by the regulatory negotiation committee for certain elements and spaces.

The National Center on Accessibility prepared best practice bulletins for designing accessible camping and picnic areas and accessible trails based on the work of the regulatory negotiation committee.[18] The National Park Service and other Federal land management agencies in the Department of Interior currently use these best practice bulletins for their construction and alteration projects.

The Army Corps of Engineers prepared “Recreation Facility and Customer Service Standards” for its construction and alteration projects.[19] The Army Corps of Engineers’ standards are based on general considerations of public convenience, resource protection, and sustainability. The Army Corps of Engineers’ standards require all campsite living areas to have firm and stable ground surfaces at cooking and eating areas and at tent pads. The Army Corps of Engineers’ standards also include provisions for accessibility that require all new picnic tables, fire rings and pedestal grills to be accessible. The Army Corps of Engineers construction and alteration projects also use best practices for accessible design. [20]

Baselines for Regulatory Assessment

The Access Board used two baselines for this regulatory assessment. The first baseline assesses the costs associated with the accessibility guidelines for outdoor developed areas compared to the Federal land management agencies current accessibility policies and practices as described below:

  • Forest Service – FSORAG and FSTAG. The Forest Service currently requires all its construction and alteration projects to use FSORAG and FSTAG. FSORAG and FSTAG generally meet or exceed the level of accessibility in the guidelines. Thus, the Forest Service’s projects will not incur any additional costs associated with the guidelines compared to FSORAG and FSTAG.
  • Department of the Interior – Best Practice Bulletins. The Federal land management agencies in the Department of the Interior currently use the National Center on Accessibility’s best practice bulletins. However, the agencies have not formally required all their construction and alteration projects to use the best practice bulletins. Therefore, this baseline assumes 50 percent to 75 percent of the agencies’ projects use the best practice bulletins.[21] The best practice bulletins generally meet the level of accessibility in the guidelines. Thus, the percentage of the agencies’ projects that will incur additional costs associated with the guidelines range from a lower bound of 25 percent to an upper bound of 50 percent.
  • Army Corps of Engineers – Recreation Facility and Customer Service Standards and Best Practices. The Army Corps of Engineers currently require all its construction and alteration projects to use its “Recreation Facility and Customer Service Standards” and also currently recommend that the projects use best practices for accessible design. The Army Corps of Engineers “Recreation Facility and Customer Service Standards” generally meet or exceed the level of accessibility in the guidelines, except for recreational vehicle parking areas and trails.[22] The baseline assumes 50 percent to 75 percent of the Army Corps of Engineers’ projects use best practices for designing accessible recreational vehicle parking areas and trails that meet the level of accessibility in the guidelines.[23] Thus, the percentage of the Army Corps of Engineers’ projects that will incur additional costs for recreational vehicle parking areas and trails associated with the guidelines ranges from a lower bound of 25 percent to an upper bound of 50 percent.

The second baseline assesses the costs associated with the accessibility guidelines for outdoor developed areas if accessibility were not required by the Access Board or otherwise. That is, the second baseline attempts to evaluate how the Federal land management’s agencies would construct or alter the elements and spaces covered by the guidelines in the absence of any accessibility requirements.

1.6 Costs

Elements and Spaces Covered by Guidelines

The accessibility guidelines for outdoor developed areas cover the elements and spaces listed in Table 1.1.

Table 1.1 - Elements and Spaces Covered by Guidelines

Outdoor Developed Areas

Elements and Spaces Covered by Guidelines

Camping and Picnic Areas

Parking Areas in Camping Spaces Tent Pads and Platforms Picnic Tables Fire Rings Pedestal Grills Trash Containers Water Hydrants Utility Hook-Ups Benches Outdoor Recreation Access Routes

Trails

Trails Designated for Pedestrian Use That Connect to a Designated Trailhead or an Accessible Trail

 

Other Outdoor Developed Areas

Beach Access Routes Outdoor Rinsing Showers Designated Viewing Areas Telescopes and Periscopes Warming Huts Wood Stoves and Fireplaces Storage Facilities for Mobility Devices Pit Toilets

 

Annual Expenditures on Construction or Alteration of Elements and Spaces Covered by Guidelines

Establishing the Federal land management agencies annual expenditures on the construction or alteration of the elements and spaces covered by the accessibility guidelines for outdoor developed areas required a project-by-project review. The Access Board requested data from the Federal land management agencies on camping and picnic projects and trails projects funded in FY 2004 that included elements and spaces covered by the guidelines.[24]

The Forest Service prepared a regulatory assessment for FSORAG and FSTAG.[25] The Forest Service provided data from its regulatory assessment for FSORAG and FSTAG. The National Park Service provided data from its Project Management Information System (PMIS). The other Federal land management agencies in the Department of the Interior, and the Army Corps of Engineers conducted data calls to their regional and field offices to provide project data. The data is summarized in Table 1.2. Some of the projects included the construction or alteration of general parking areas, restrooms, and other facilities covered by existing accessibility standards, or the construction or alteration of roads and other infrastructure that are not subject to accessibility standards. Thus, the total project costs overstate the expenditures on elements and spaces covered by the guidelines.

Table 1.2 – FY 2004 Projects That Included Construction or Alteration of Elements and Spaces Covered by Guidelines

 

Agency

Camping & Picnic Areas

Trails

Number of Projects

Total Project Costs

Number of Projects

Total Project Costs

Department of Agriculture

 

 

 

 

 

Forest Service

 

Not available

$6.9 million

(FY 2003)

 

Not available

 

Not available

Department of the Interior

 

 

 

 

National Park Service

46

$14.0 million

33

$2.7 million

Fish and Wildlife Service

2

$0.2 million

3

$0.3 million

Bureau of Land Management

6

$1.8 million

1

$25,000

Bureau of Reclamation

8

$1.1 million

3

$1.2 million

Department of Defense

 

 

 

 

Army Corps of Engineers

25

Not available

4

$1 million

Total

87

$24.0 million

44

$5.2 million

 

The number of projects that include the construction or alteration of elements and spaces covered by the accessibility guidelines for outdoor developed areas will vary each fiscal year based on the specific projects funded, and the total costs of the projects will also vary based on the scope of work of the projects.

Review of Projects

The Access Board reviewed 43 camping and picnic area projects and 26 trail projects that included the construction or alteration of elements and spaces covered by the accessibility guidelines for outdoor developed areas for this regulatory assessment, as shown in Table 1.3.[26] The purpose of the review was to assess the level of accessibility of the elements and spaces, and the additional costs associated with accessibility. The results of the review are discussed in the subsequent chapters.

Table 1.3 – Projects Reviewed for Regulatory Assessment

Agency

Camping & Picnic Area Projects

Trail Projects

Department of Agriculture

 

 

Forest Service

12

4

Department of the Interior

 

 

National Park Service

9

11

Fish and Wildlife Service

2

3

Bureau of Land Management

6

1

Bureau of Reclamation

8

3

Department of Defense

 

 

Army Corps of Engineers

6

4

Total

43

26

Costs Associated with Guidelines

The Access Board used the project reviews to develop models for estimating the additional annual costs associated with the accessibility guidelines for outdoor developed areas compared to the baselines discussed earlier in this chapter. The models are discussed in the subsequent chapters.

The additional annual costs associated with the accessibility guidelines for outdoor developed areas compared to the Federal land management agencies current accessibility policies and practices (baseline 1) are shown in Table 1.4 and range from $0.5 million to $1.1 million.

Table 1.4 – Additional Annual Costs Associated with Baseline 1: Guidelines Compared to Agencies’ Current Accessibility Policies and Practices

 Agency

Camping & Picnic Areas

 Trails

Other Outdoor Developed Areas

 Total

Department of Agriculture

 

 

 

 

Forest Service

$0

$0

$0

$0

Department of the Interior

 

 

 

 

  National Park Service

$126,588 to $244,951

$180,000 to  $340,000

$0 to  $50,000

$306,588 to  $634,951

Fish and Wildlife Service

$12,873 

$20,000 to  $40,000

$0 to $50,000

$32,873 to  $102,873

Bureau of Land Management

$21,098 to  $33,971

$20,000 

$0 to $50,000

$41,098 to  $103,971

Bureau of Reclamation

$21,098 to  $42,196

$20,000 to  $40,000

$0 to $50,000

$41,098 to  $132,196

Department of Defense

 

 

 

 

Army Corps of Engineers

$36,000 to  $72,000

$20,000 to  $40,000

$0 to  $50,000

$56,000 to  $162,000

Total

$217,657 to  $405,991

$260,000 to  $480,000

$0 to $250,000

$477,657 to  $1,135,991

 

The additional annual costs associated with the accessibility guidelines for outdoor developed areas if accessibility were not required by the Access Board or otherwise (baseline 2) are shown in Table 1.5 and range from $2.0 million to $2.6 million.

Table 1.5 – Additional Annual Costs Associated with Baseline 2: Guidelines Compared to Accessibility Not Required by Access Board or Otherwise

 Agency

Camping & Picnic Areas

 Trails

Other Outdoor Developed Areas

 Total

Department of Agriculture

 

 

 

 

Forest Service [27]

$0 to  $320,000

$157,000 to  $166,000

$0 to  $50,000

$157,000 to  $536,000

Department of the Interior

 

 

 

 

  National Park Service

$485,254   

$660,000

$0 to  $50,000

$1,145,254 to  $1,195,254

Fish and Wildlife Service

$21,098

$60,000

$0 to  $50,000

$81,098 to  $131,098

Bureau of Land Management

$63,294 

$20,000 

$0 to  $50,000

$83,294 to  $133,294

Bureau of Reclamation

$84,512 

$60,000 

$0 to  $50,000

144,512 to  $194,512

Department of Defense

 

 

 

 

Army Corps of Engineers

$266,049  

$80,000  

$0 to  $50,000

$346,049 to  $396,049

Total

$920,207 to  $1,240,207

$1,037,000 to $1,046,000

$0 to $300,000

$1,957,207 to $2,586,207

Thus, the guidelines are not an economically significant regulatory action compared to either of the two baselines, and the Access Board has not prepared a full cost-benefit analysis of the guidelines.[28]

1.7 Benefits

Individuals with disabilities, and their families and friends, will benefit from accessible facilities in outdoor developed areas. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that there are 51.2 million Americans with disabilities in the civilian non-institutionalized population in 2002.[29] Among the population age 15 and older, 2.7 million individuals used a wheelchair, and another 9.1 million used a mobility aid such as a cane, crutches, or walker. Many of the benefits to these individuals resulting from accessible facilities in outdoor developed areas are currently being realized under the Federal land management agencies’ current accessibility policies and practices. The Access Board’s accessibility guidelines for outdoor developed areas will contribute to the benefits, and justify issuing the guidelines.