RIC EDWARDS: My name is Ric Edwards but before I identify who I am I'd like to commend the Access Board and specifically Bill and Peggy for the work that they've done here in Indiana. Bill has presented to us before, and I appreciate his work.
I appreciate the work you're doing in developing these outdoor guidelines. The guidelines are being requested by a number of people and organizations that I deal with on a daily basis. I'd like to speak a little bit to the difference between the proposed Access Board guidelines and Forest Service trail accessibility guidelines and Forest Service outdoor recreation guidelines. I work with several entities that are confused by the differences between ADAAG and UFAS and the new ADA/ABA. And I'd encourage the board to make all efforts to avoid this by not establishing different standards based upon where the funds come from or some other requirement. This process is already challenging enough.
As for the specific questions that are in the proposed guidelines, I'd like to touch briefly on a couple but we'll be submitting comments, written comments, before the October deadline.
Question 13 addresses different construction tolerances for the outdoor environment. I agree with establishing differing tolerances based upon the environment. For example, tolerances can and should be greater and more -- in more rugged and secluded areas. I believe that most people with disabilities understand that the more secluded the area the more likely the challenge will increase. This is not to say that we anticipate challenges in rugged areas but we understand the likelihood.
This is why the conditions for the departure are so necessary, in my opinion, and why information about the trail itself is so important.
Question 25 inquires about the signage to be used. Personally, I'd encourage you to avoid using the cutesy tree and person with a disability international symbol for accessibility. Just because we want the information there but not, like I said, the cutesy thing.
But important information about the trail is vital as we look at trails, obviously, you know, the universal assessment process and the measurements that are there, those are very helpful as we look at a trail. So the information being available is vitally important, I believe. But to avoid putting folks to sleep, like I said, I'll be taking advantage of the opportunity to provide written comments to do that.
I'm here wearing a number of different hats. I have the privilege of serving on the Indiana Trails Advisory Board. I serve as the chairman of the Great Lakes ADA steering committee. I'm also the director of ADA compliance for the Department of Natural Resources. But mostly I'm here representing -- to put a face, I guess, on people with disabilities and the work that you're doing.
Growing up in Spencer, Indiana, before my accident, I took for granted the ability to travel into areas of the country where traffic noise was absent, where deer looked upon us as not out of place, where you could shed the pressures of the city.
After my accident, I believed that the loss of my legs would prevent access to the woods. Then I got a job with DNR. I discovered that these limitations were somewhat self-imposed. I've taken pictures here of some of the areas in Indiana where we've been able to provide access in some really challenging areas. The first picture is a picture of the board walk that they're installing right now at the Indiana Dunes State Park. It's connecting the campground area over a number of dunes to the parking lot to the pavilion area where you can access the beach.
We've also taken advantage of a track-about wheelchair that we've installed or actually have available for people with disabilities to use to actually go anywhere they want to on the dunes.
The second picture is actually one of the most recent trails that we've developed here in Indiana, McCormick's Creek State Park that allows people with disabilities to get out into those areas that hereto were not accessible. This leads to an overlook that you see right there, with access to such views as that and that. Unobstructed views that, like I said, before my accident, thought it would be 40 years before -- or since I'd be able to see that picture. I appreciate the opportunity to present to you and I appreciate the guidelines that are here to open those kinds of pictures up to people with mobility limitations. Thank you very much.
PHILIP PEARCE [BOARD MEMBER]: I've got one question for you.
RIC EDWARDS: Yes, sir.
PHILIP PEARCE: You talked about signage and the importance that it has.
RIC EDWARDS: Yes.
PHILIP PEARCE: Do you feel that there comes a point where signage becomes too much?
RIC EDWARDS: Absolutely.
PHILIP PEARCE: Where it becomes too intrusive into the outdoor environment? And what sorts of options do you see for that?
RIC EDWARDS: Well, the Board has already suggested, I think, putting the signage at the trail head itself and those areas that are accessible. What I've tried to do in Indiana with the Department of Natural Resources is to avoid the big blue and white international symbol of accessibility on everything that's accessible. Rather, we've listed in the brochures that we have for each one of our properties to indicate where on the property those areas are accessible.
Out there on the trail, like I said, having the international symbol with the hiker would offer the opportunity that that portion of the trail is accessible to all folks, mobility or those without ambulation problems.
So I would be stingy, conservative, I guess, with putting signage or putting a requirement that signage be placed on absolutely every portion of the trail that's accessible. If you can -- again, at the trail head, offer that as an option, but also get into specific details in brochures and materials that might be available at the park, or at the property itself.
PHILIP PEARCE: OK. And just to follow up with that, one of the questions that we've had previously related to persons who are blind or particularly those persons who have low vision and in being able to see the signs, and of course from their perspective, they're saying you've got to have bigger signs with bigger letters and all of that sort of thing so there's sort of a conflict there so I'm really interested in the comments that anyone that's presenting here today may have relative to that issue because I think it's going to be an issue that we have to deal with.
OK. I'm not going to speak as an expert or some authority on somebody who's got a vision disability, but it would seem to me that an individual who has a vision disability, going out on a trail, is going to be aware that they're going into an undeveloped area and the possibility for hazards and that sort of thing certainly is greater than they would be walking down the street of Indianapolis.
So I guess I would draw the conclusion that an individual with a vision disability is going to be assuming that they're not going to have unobstructed access to absolutely everything as they would on a street corner.
PHILIP PEARCE: OK. Anything else? Thank you very much.
RIC EDWARDS: Thank you.