General Issues

Format and Organization of Guidelines

The NPRM presented the accessibility guidelines for outdoor developed areas as a separate, self-contained document.  The draft final accessibility guidelines for outdoor developed areas are formatted for incorporation into the Americans with Disabilities Act and Architectural Barriers Act (ADA-ABA) Accessibility Guidelines.  The Access Board issued the ADA-ABA Accessibility Guidelines in 2004 to revise and update the accessibility guidelines for buildings and facilities covered by Americans with Disabilities Act and the Architectural Barriers Act.  The General Services Administration and the Department of Defense have adopted the relevant chapters of the ADA-ABA Accessibility Guidelines as enforceable standards for the Architectural Barriers Act.

Outdoor developed areas can contain elements and facilities such as drinking fountains, parking areas, restrooms, play areas, boating facilities, and fishing platforms that are addressed in the ADA-ABA Accessibility Guidelines.  Incorporating the accessibility guidelines for outdoor developed areas into the ADA-ABA Accessibility Guidelines organizes all the provisions necessary to make all the elements and facilities in these areas accessible in one document.  The Access Board is developing a separate technical assistance document, in cooperation with the Federal land management agencies, to accompany the final accessibility guidelines.  The document will explain in an easy to use format the provisions in the ADA-ABA Accessibility Guidelines that apply to outdoor developed areas.

The following new sections are added to the ADA-ABA Accessibility Guidelines:

ABA Chapter 2:  Scoping Requirements
F244 Camping Facilities
F245 Picnic Facilities
F246 Viewing Areas
F247 Trails
F248 Beach Access Routes
Chapter 10:  Recreation Facilities
1011 Outdoor Constructed Features
1012 Parking Spaces within Accessible Camping Units and Picnic Units and Pull-Up Spaces at Recreational Vehicle Dump Stations
1013 Tent Pads and Tent Platforms
1014 Camp Shelters
1015 Viewing Areas
1016 Outdoor Recreation Access Routes
1017 Trails
1018 Beach Access Routes
1019 Conditions for Exceptions

Each section contains numbered provisions that address a single subject indicated by the heading or title of the provision.  Non-mandatory advisory information is inserted in boxes after some provisions and is clearly identified.  Plain language is used to make the provisions clearer and easier to understand.  The Board seeks comment on whether:

  • The provisions are clearly stated;
  • Any language is not clear; or
  • Clarity can be improved by adding figures or advisory information.

The draft final accessibility guidelines also amend several existing provisions of the ADA-ABA Accessibility Guidelines, including:

  • New Exception 4 is added to the scoping provision for alterations in F202.3.  Exception 4 is based on existing Exception 1 in F202.3.  Exception 4 does not require an outdoor recreation access route to be provided where an element, space, or outdoor constructed feature is altered but the circulation path to the altered element, space, or outdoor constructed feature is not altered.
  • New Exception 2 is added to the scoping provision for alterations to primary function areas in F202.4.  Exception 2 does not require camping facilities, picnic facilities, viewing areas, trailheads, trails, and beach access routes to comply with F202.4 because the NPRM did not contain any scoping provision for alterations to primary function areas.
  • New Exceptions 1, 2, and 3 are added to the scoping provision for accessible routes in F206.1 to clarify that accessible routes are not required where outdoor recreation access routes or beach access routes are provided, and where certain facilities are provided on trails.

Conditional Exceptions

The NPRM permitted exceptions to specific technical provisions where certain conditions exist.  The conditions take into account limitations and other constraints posed by the existing outdoor environment.  The conditions are contained in 1019 in the draft final accessibility guidelines.

The draft final accessibility guidelines separate the NPRM condition based on terrain or prevailing construction practices into two conditions for clarity as shown below.

NPRM ConditionDraft Final Guidelines Conditions
Compliance would not be feasible due to terrain or the prevailing construction practices. Compliance is not feasible due to terrain.
Compliance cannot be accomplished with the prevailing construction practices.

The draft final accessibility guidelines use the phrase “fundamentally alter” in place of “substantially alter” in the condition shown below.  The phrase “fundamentally alter” is used in regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act to describe when compliance with certain requirements can be limited.  The phrase “fundamentally alter” is used in the draft final accessibility guidelines to be consistent with those regulations.  Federal agencies have experience applying the phrase “fundamentally alter” under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and should apply the phrase in the same manner to the condition.

NPRM ConditionDraft Final Guidelines Condition
Compliance would substantially alter the nature of the setting or the purpose of the facility, or portion of the facility. Compliance would fundamentally alter the function or purpose of the facility or the setting.

The draft final accessibility guidelines combine the NPRM conditions based on Federal, State, or local laws and on preservation of archaeological, cultural, historical, or other significant natural features into one condition as shown below.  The draft final accessibility guidelines reference the specific Federal laws that the NPRM included in advisory information on the conditions, and adds the National Environmental Policy Act.  These laws can limit construction in the outdoor environment.  The draft final accessibility guidelines include a general reference to other Federal, State, or local laws the purpose of which is to preserve threatened or endangered species; the environment; or archaeological, cultural, historical, or other significant natural features.  Archaeological, cultural, historical, or other significant natural features that are eligible for protection under Federal, State, or local laws are covered by the condition.

NPRM ConditionsDraft Final Guidelines Condition
Compliance would require construction methods or materials that are prohibited by Federal, State, or local regulations or statutes. Compliance is precluded by the:
  • Endangered Species Act (16 U.S.C. §§ 1531 et seq.);
  • National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. §§ 4321 et seq.);
  • National Historic Preservation Act (16 U.S.C. §§ 470 et seq.);
  • Wilderness Act (16 U.S.C. §§ 1131 et seq.); or
  • Other Federal, State, or local law the purpose of which is to preserve threatened or endangered species; the environment; or archaeological, cultural, historical, or other significant natural features.
Compliance would cause substantial harm to cultural, historic, religious, or significant natural features or characteristics.

The draft final accessibility guidelines contain additional exceptions to the technical provisions where the conditions exist.  The conditional exceptions permitted in the draft final accessibility guidelines are shown in the table below.

Conditional Exceptions in Draft Final Guidelines
Space or FacilityExceptionType of Construction to Which Exception AppliesTechnical Provisions to Which Exception Applies
Outdoor Constructed Features 1011.2 EXCEPTION 2 Alterations Clear ground space at outdoor constructed features permitted to comply with provisions for size and location, firm and stable surface, and slope to the maximum extent feasible
Tent Pads and Tent Platforms 1013.2 EXCEPTION New Construction
Alterations
Clear ground space at tent pads and tent platforms permitted to comply with technical provisions to the maximum extent feasible
Camp Shelters 1014.1 EXCEPTION New Construction
Alterations
Camp shelters permitted to comply with technical provisions to the maximum extent feasible
Viewing Areas 1015.1 EXCEPTION Alterations Viewing areas permitted to comply with technical provisions to the maximum extent feasible
Outdoor Recreation Access Routes 1016.1 EXCEPTION 1 Alterations Portions of an outdoor recreation access route at existing camping facilities, picnic facilities, and trailheads permitted to comply with technical provisions to the maximum extent feasible
1016.1 EXCEPTION 2 New Construction
Alterations
Portions of an outdoor recreation access route at viewing areas permitted to comply with technical provisions to the maximum extent feasible
Trails 1017.1 EXCEPTION 1 New Construction
Alterations
Portions of a trail permitted to comply with technical provisions to the maximum extent feasible
Beach Access Routes 1018.1 EXCEPTION 1 New Construction
Alterations
Portions of a beach access route permitted to comply with technical provisions to the maximum extent feasible

Where a conditional exception applies to the technical provisions for a facility, the exception is to be applied on a provision-by-provision basis.  For example, if a portion of trail can fully comply with the technical provision for clear tread width but cannot fully comply with the technical provision for running slope, the conditional exception permits the portion of the trail to comply with the technical provision for running slope to the maximum extent feasible.  The phase “to the maximum extent feasible” means that the portion of the trail can depart from the technical provision for running slope to the extent necessary to address the condition.

Exceptions for Trails and Beach Access Routes

The NPRM contained an exception based on the Regulatory Negotiation Committee Report that addressed situations where it would be impractical to require an entire trail to comply with the technical provisions.  These situations were described as follows:

  • The combination of running slope and cross slope exceeds 40 percent for over 20 feet.
  • A trail obstacle 30 inches or more in height extends across the full tread width of the trail.
  • The surface is neither firm nor stable for a distance of 45 feet or more.
  • The clear tread width is less than 12 inches for a distance of 20 feet or more.
  • The conditional exceptions result in over 15 percent of the length of the trail departing from the technical provisions.

Some comments noted that the Regulatory Negotiation Committee Report contained two separate exceptions based on the situations described above.  The comments preferred the two separate exceptions as contained in the Regulatory Negotiation Committee Report.  The Access Board further considered the two separate exceptions contained in the Regulatory Negotiation Committee Report and found they have shortcomings.  There can be situations other than those described in the first exception in the Regulatory Negotiation Committee Report where it would be impractical to require an entire trail to comply with the technical provisions.  The second exception in the Regulatory Negotiation Committee Report does not distinguish between minor and significant departures from the technical provisions.  Therefore, the Access Board revised the exceptions for trails in the draft final accessibility guidelines.  The Access Board also added exceptions similar to the trails exceptions for beach access routes.

The exceptions for trails are contained in 1017.1, and the exceptions for beach access routes are contained in 1018.1 in the draft final accessibility guidelines.  The exceptions are to be applied on a case-by-case basis to determine situations where it is impractical to require an entire trail to comply with the technical provisions, or to provide a beach access route.  The exceptions are to be applied as follows:

  • Apply the conditional exceptions and determine what portions of a trail or beach access route cannot fully comply with the technical provisions.  Those portions of the trail or beach access route are required to comply with the technical provisions to the maximum extent feasible.
  • Evaluate the entire trail or beach access route and determine whether it is impracticable for the entire trail to comply with the technical provisions, or to provide a beach access route.  This determination takes into account what portions of the trail or beach access route can and cannot fully comply with the technical provisions, and the extent of compliance where full compliance cannot be achieved.
  • Document the basis for the determinations, and maintain the documentation with the records for the construction or alteration project.  The draft final accessibility guidelines do not prescribe any particular format for the documentation.

Notification When Entire Trail or Beach Access Route Exempted

The Access Board plans to monitor situations where the exceptions for trails and beach access routes result in exempting an entire trail or beach access route.  A provision is added at F201.4.1 that requires Federal agencies to notify the Access Board when an entire trail or beach access route is exempted.  The provision does not require approval or any other action on the part of the Access Board or the Federal agency.  The Access Board will develop a sample form with assistance from the accessibility program managers for the Federal land management agencies that can be used to notify the Access Board when an entire trail or beach access route is exempted.  The Access Board will use the information provided by the Federal agencies to develop additional guidance on exempting entire trails and beach access routes.  Federal agencies are encouraged to seek technical assistance from the Access Board when considering exempting an entire trail or beach access route.

Outdoor Constructed Features

The NPRM contained individual scoping and technical provisions for picnic tables, fire rings, grills, fireplaces, wood stoves, trash and recycling receptacles, water hydrants, utility and sewage hookups, outdoor rinsing showers, benches, telescopes, and periscopes.  The draft final accessibility guidelines use a new term “outdoor constructed features” to describe these elements, and the term is defined in F106.5 to include only these elements.

The NPRM contained various scoping provisions for outdoor constructed features based on the Regulatory Negotiation Committee Report as follows:

  • At least 50 percent of picnic tables, fire rings, grills, and benches were required to be accessible.  At least 40 percent of these outdoor constructed features were required to be connected to an outdoor recreation access route.  Thus, the NPRM required at least 20 percent of these outdoor constructed features to be accessible and connected to an outdoor recreation access route (i.e., 40 percent of 50 percent = 20 percent).  The other 30 percent of these accessible outdoor constructed features were not required to be connected to an outdoor recreation access route.
  • Each fireplace, wood stove, and trash and recycling receptacle was required to be accessible and connected to an outdoor recreation access route.
  • At least 20 percent of telescopes and periscopes were required to be accessible and connected to an outdoor recreation access route.
  • At least one outdoor rinsing shower was required to be accessible and connected to an outdoor recreation access route.

The draft final accessibility guidelines revise and simplify the scoping provisions for outdoor constructed features as follows:

  • Outdoor constructed features provided within accessible camping units and accessible picnic units are required to be accessible and connected to an outdoor recreation access route.
  • An exception addresses the situation where more than one outdoor constructed feature of the same type is provided within an accessible camping unit or an accessible picnic unit.  The exception requires no more than 20 percent but at least two of the same type of outdoor constructed feature provided within an accessible camping unit or an accessible picnic unit to be accessible and connected to an outdoor recreation access route.
  • At least 20 percent of the outdoor constructed features provided in common use and public use areas serving accessible camping units and accessible picnic units are required to be accessible and connected to an outdoor recreation access route.
  • At least 20 percent of outdoor constructed features provided at viewing areas and trailheads are required to be accessible and connected to an outdoor recreation access route.
  • At least 20 percent of outdoor constructed features provided at each location on trails are required to be accessible.  Outdoor constructed features provided on trails are not required to be connected to an outdoor recreation access route.

Unlike the NPRM, the draft final accessibility guidelines do not require an additional number of outdoor constructed features to be accessible without requiring them to be connected to an outdoor recreation access route because the ADA-ABA Accessibility Guidelines generally require accessible elements to be connected to a route that is accessible.

The scoping provisions for outdoor constructed features are minimum requirements.  Federal agencies can exceed these minimum requirements and are encouraged to do so.  The U.S. Forest Service and Army Corps of Engineers exceed these minimum requirements.  Each outdoor constructed feature provided by the U.S. Forest Service and Army Corps of Engineers is accessible.

The technical provisions for outdoor constructed features are contained in 1011.  The technical provisions for clear ground spaces in 1011.2 and operable parts in 1011.3 apply to all types of outdoor constructed features.  A conditional exception is added to the clear ground space provision for alterations to existing facilities and is discussed under Conditional Exceptions.  Exceptions are added to the technical provisions for operable parts in 1011.3 for certain outdoor constructed features based on the design or operation of the features.  There are specific technical provisions for wheelchair spaces at picnic tables in 1011.4; for fire building and cooking surfaces in 1011.5; for water spouts in 1011.6; for shower heads on outdoor rinsing showers in 1011.7; and for eyepieces on telescopes and periscopes in 1011.8.

The clear ground space sizes in Table 1011.2.1 are based on the dimensions in 307.5 of the ADA-ABA Accessibility Guidelines for spaces that are confined on all or part of three sides.  In outdoor environments, the clear ground spaces at outdoor constructed features can be confined on all or part of three sides by adjoining surfaces that are not firm and stable or that have changes in level.  The dimensions in 307.5 of the ADA-ABA Accessibility Guidelines provide additional clearance for these situations: 36 inches by 48 inches minimum for a forward approach, and 36 inches by 60 inches minimum for a parallel approach.  The location of the outdoor constructed feature within the clear ground space is also specified in Table 1011.2.1.  The size of the clear ground space at water hydrants is enlarged to allow individuals with disabilities to approach each side of the water hydrant.

The NPRM included scoping and technical provisions for utility sinks that are provided to clean large pots or equipment.  The ADA-ABA Accessibility Guidelines include scoping and technical provisions for sinks, but exempt service sinks because they cannot comply with the technical provisions due to their configuration.  Utility sinks are configured similar to service sinks.  Therefore, an exception has been added to F212.3 of the ADA-ABA Accessibility Guidelines that exempts sinks in camping facilities and picnic facilities where a cooktop or conventional range is not provided.  The exception is intended to apply to utility sinks. The ADA-ABA Accessibility Guidelines contain a separate scoping provision for lavatories (i.e., sinks in toilet rooms and bathing rooms) in F213.3.4 that is not affected by the exception.

Grab bars are not required on outdoor rinsing showers because they are not designed for transferring from a wheelchair or mobility device.  The technical assistance document that accompanies the final accessibility guidelines will include recommended designs for grab bars on outdoor rinsing showers and for seat height, backs, and armrests on benches.  The draft final accessibility guidelines do not include provisions for mobility storage devices because they typically are not provided at the facilities addressed in the guidelines.

Concrete, Asphalt, or Board Surfaces

A variety of ground surfaces can be used to provide accessible spaces and facilities in outdoor environments.  The draft final accessibility guidelines distinguish between the types of ground surfaces used for certain maximum slopes and obstacle heights as shown in the table below.  The 1:48 maximum slope and ½ inch obstacle height specified for concrete, asphalt, or board surfaces are based on the technical provisions for changes in level in 303.3 and 305.2 of the ADA-ABA Accessibility Guidelines.  Beveling is not required.  Concrete, asphalt, and board surfaces can achieve this maximum slope and obstacle height, unlike some other surfaces used in outdoor environments.  The maximum slopes and obstacle heights specified for surfaces other than concrete, asphalt, or boards are the same as in the NPRM.

Technical Provisions for Certain Maximum Slopes and Obstacle Heights
Space or FacilityProvisionConcrete, Asphalt, or Board SurfacesAll Other Surfaces
Outdoor Constructed Features
Slope (any direction) of clear ground spaces 1011.2.3 1:48 1:48
EXCEPTION: 1:33 where necessary for drainage
Parking Spaces within Accessible Camping and Picnic Units and Pull-Up Spaces at Recreational Vehicle Dump Stations
Slope (any direction) of parking and pull-up spaces 1012.5 1:48 1:48
EXCEPTION: 1:33 where necessary for drainage
Tent Pads and Tent Platforms
Slope (any direction) of tent pads, tent platforms, and clear ground spaces 1013.3 1:48 1:48
EXCEPTION: 1:33 where necessary for drainage
Camp Shelters
Slope (any direction) of clear ground spaces and floor spaces 1014.4 1:48 1:48
EXCEPTION: 1:33 where necessary for drainage
Viewing Areas
Slope (any direction) of clear ground spaces and turning spaces 1015.6 1:48 1:48
EXCEPTION: 1:33 where necessary for drainage
Outdoor Recreation Access Routes
Obstacles 1016.5 ½ inch 1 inch
Cross slope 1016.7.2 1:48 1:33
Resting interval slope (any direction) 1016.8.3 1:48 1:33
Trails
Tread Obstacles 1017.5 ½ inch 2 inches
Cross slope 1017.7.2 1:48 1:20
Resting interval slope (any direction) 1017.8.3 1:48 1:20
Beach Access Routes
Obstacles 1018.5 ½ inch 1 inch
Cross slope 1018.7.2 1:48 1:33
Resting interval slope (any direction) 1018.8.2 1:48 1:33