2. Executive Summary

Legal Authority and Purpose

The Architectural Barriers Act requires facilities constructed or altered by or on behalf of federal agencies to be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. Certain agencies are required to adopt accessibility standards for the design, construction, and alteration of facilities covered by the Architectural Barriers Act.2 We are required by section 502 of the Rehabilitation Act to establish and maintain minimum guidelines and requirements for the accessibility standards adopted the federal agencies. We are issuing the final rule pursuant to this authority. The final rule amends the Architectural Barriers Act Accessibility Guidelines that we issued in 2004 to address camping facilities, picnic facilities, viewing areas, trails, and beach access routes constructed or altered by or behalf of federal agencies.

Summary of Major Provisions

The final rule applies to the following federal agencies and their components that administer outdoor areas developed for recreational purposes: Department of Agriculture (Forest Service); Department of Defense (Army Corps of Engineers); and Department of the Interior (Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service). The final rule also applies to non-federal entities that construct or alter recreation facilities on federal land on behalf of the federal agencies pursuant to a concession contract, partnership agreement, or similar arrangement.
The final rule adds scoping and technical requirements for the design, construction, and alteration of camping facilities, picnic facilities, viewing areas, trails, and beach access routes to the Architectural Barriers Act Accessibility Guidelines. The scoping requirements address the following outdoor constructed features provided at these facilities: picnic tables, fire rings, grills, fireplaces, wood stoves, trash and recycling receptacles, water hydrants, utility and sewage hookups, outdoor rinsing showers, benches, and viewing scopes. The scoping requirements also address the following elements provided in camping units with mobility features: parking spaces for recreational vehicles and other vehicles; tent pads and tent platforms; and camp shelters. The scoping requirements added by the final rule are summarized in Table 1.

Table 1. Scoping Requirements Added by Final Rule

F244 Camping Facilities

F245 Picnic Facilities

 
Requires minimum number of camping units and picnic units to provide mobility features based on total number of units provided in the camping or picnic facility.

Requires camping units and picnic units with mobility features to provide choices of units comparable to, and integrated with, those available to others.

Requires at least one of each type of outdoor constructed features and other elements provided within camping units and picnic units with mobility features to comply with the applicable technical requirements. Where more than one of the same type of outdoor constructed feature or element is provided, requires at least two of the same type to comply with the applicable technical requirements.

Requires at least 20 percent of each type of outdoor constructed features provided at each location in common use and public use areas serving camping units and picnic units with mobility features to comply with the applicable technical requirements.

Requires outdoor recreation access routes to connect:

  • Accessible elements, spaces, and facilities provided within camping units and picnic units with mobility features;
  • Camping units and picnic units with mobility features to common use and public use areas serving the units;
  • Accessible elements, spaces, and facilities provided within common use and public use areas serving camping units and picnic units with mobility features; and
  • Camping units and picnic units with mobility features to an accessible route serving adjacent recreation facilities, where a circulation path connects camping and picnic facilities and adjacent recreation facilities.
F246 Viewing Areas

Requires each distinct viewing location and at least 20 percent of outdoor constructed features within viewing areas to comply with the applicable technical requirements.

Requires outdoor recreation access routes to connect accessible parking spaces or other arrival points serving the viewing area with accessible elements, spaces, and facilities provided within the viewing area.

F216.13 Trailhead Signs
F247 Trails
Requires new trail information signs provided at trailheads on newly constructed and altered trails designed for use by hikers or pedestrians to comply with the applicable technical requirements for trailhead signs.

Requires trails designed for use by hikers and pedestrians to comply with the applicable technical requirements for trails where the trail directly connects to a trailhead or another trail that substantially meets the applicable technical requirements for trails.

Requires existing trails to comply with the applicable technical requirements for trails where the original design, function, or purpose of the trail is changed and the altered portion of the trail directly connects to a trailhead or another trail that substantially meets the applicable technical requirements for trails.

Requires camping facilities, picnic facilities, and viewing areas provided on trails to comply with the applicable scoping requirements in F244, F245, and F246, except for outdoor recreation access routes.

Requires at least 20 percent of outdoor constructed features provided at trailheads and at each location on trails, other than at facilities provided on trails, to comply with the applicable technical requirements.

Requires outdoor recreation access routes to connect accessible parking spaces or other arrival points serving a trailhead to the starting point of the trail and accessible elements, spaces, and facilities provided within the trailhead.

F248 Beach Access Routes Requires at least one permanent or removable beach access route to be provided for each 1/2 mile of beach shoreline administered or managed by an entity where:
  • Circulation paths, parking facilities, toilet facilities, or bathing facilities serving the beach are constructed or altered; or
  • A beach nourishment project is undertaken.

Not more than 20 percent of the costs of constructing or altering facilities serving the beach or a beach nourishment project are required to be expended on beach access routes. 

The technical requirements establish design criteria for outdoor constructed features; parking spaces within camping units and picnic units with mobility features; pull-up spaces for recreational vehicles at dump stations; tent pads and tent platforms; camp shelters; viewing areas; outdoor recreation access routes; trails; and beach access routes. The final rule permits exceptions to specific provisions in the technical requirements for certain elements and facilities based on the conditions listed in Table 2. When an entity determines that a condition does not permit full compliance with a provision, compliance is required to the extent practicable. 

Table 2. Conditions for Exceptions
 1  Compliance is not practicable due to terrain.
 2  Compliance cannot be accomplished with the prevailing construction practices.
 3  Compliance would fundamentally alter the function or purpose of the facility or the setting.
 4  Compliance is limited or precluded by any of the following laws, or by decisions or opinions issued or agreements executed pursuant to any of the following laws: Endangered Species Act; National Environmental Policy Act; National Historic Preservation Act; Wilderness Act; 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.

The final rule allows exemptions for an entire trail or beach access route when an entity determines that is impracticable for a trail to comply with the technical requirements for trails or to provide a beach access route complying with the technical requirements for beach access routes. This determination is made after the entity applies the exceptions for specific provisions in the technical requirements for trails or beach access routes to portions of the trail or route. 

Summary of Costs and Benefits

We compared the final rule to guidelines and standards used by the federal agencies for the design of outdoor developed areas without regard to accessibility to determine whether the final rule would result in additional costs. We determined the final rule would not result in additional costs for camping facilities and picnic facilities. We estimate the final rule would result in additional costs for viewing areas, trails, and beach access routes shown in Table 3. We estimate the federal agencies would incur $1.2 million additional annual costs due to the final rule.

Table 3. Additional Costs Due to Final Rule
Viewing Areas $2,176 for dual base binocular scopes and $3,380 for a dual base telescopes, if viewing scopes provided at viewing areas
Trails $40,655 per trail mile, if trail would not otherwise meet the technical requirements and the exceptions to the technical requirements do not apply to the trail
Beach Access Routes $4,497 to $6,530 to purchase roll-out mats for beach access routes, if parking areas, toilet facilities, bathing facilities, and circulation paths serving beaches are constructed or altered or beach nourishment project is undertaken

The proposed rule would enable individuals with mobility disabilities to participate in outdoor recreation activities with their families and friends. The benefits are difficult to quantify, but include important national values recognized in Executive Order 13563 such as equity, human dignity, and fairness.