May 23, 2017

audience at Access Board town hall meetingOn May 9, the Access Board held a town hall meeting in Minneapolis that featured panelists from the Target Corporation's accessibility program and local speakers on outdoor recreation. The event, which was held at the University of Minnesota, also included an open forum that invited comments or questions from the public. Access Board Chair Deborah Ryan and Executive Director David Capozzi opened the meeting with introductions and an overview of the Board and its work.

The first presenter was Barry Grieve who serves as Building Regulatory and Strategy Lead for the Target Corporation. He provided an overview of the work of the company’s Accessibility Team which was formed 11 years ago to promote accessibility and compliance. He outlined some of the procedures and practices that have been implemented, such as conducting accessibility reviews at the outset of remodeling projects and providing access to all store check-out aisles instead of to just a portion. In addition, Target has a Digital Accessibility Team that focuses on access to the company’s website and online services. He also described related activities, including Target’s membership on the ANSI A117 Committee which maintains voluntary consensus standards for accessibility referenced by the International Building Code.

Greg Lais, Executive Director of Wilderness Inquiry, followed with a presentation on access to outdoor recreation. Wilderness Inquiry is a nonprofit organization that introduces youth, families, and people with disabilities to the natural world through outdoor trips and adventures. His presentation covered accessible features at the Apostle Island National Lakeshore in northern Wisconsin and a nearby Wilderness Inquiry base camp, including accessible tent platforms, picnic tables, toilet facilities, and boardwalks. He promoted compliance with the accessibility guidelines for outdoor developed areas that the Access Board issued for federal lands in 2013 and called attention to the need for updated illustrated guides on achieving access to such sites. In addition, he recommended outreach to state student conservation corps, which help develop outdoor recreation sites, and the Corps Network on integrating accessibility into projects according to the guidelines for outdoor developed areas.

The next presenter was Elise Niedermeier who serves as the ADA Coordinator for the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board which oversees almost 180 outdoor sites throughout the city that total over 6,000 acres. She presented examples of access improvements completed at specific sites, including a city park, a cultural and community center, a playground, and a wading pool. She also outlined a $23.6 million plan that is being developed to improve access to existing sites. Based on an accessibility audit that surveyed over 200 sites and facilities, the plan updates an earlier transition plan and would be conducted in three phases. The first phase would involve simple corrective actions, including those that can be accomplished as part of routine maintenance, while the second phase would focus on access to recreation sites that are newly covered in the 2010 ADA Standards, including playgrounds, golf facilities, sports courts and fields, and boating and fishing facilities. The third phase features more complex corrective actions that require long range planning. A report on the plan, which is currently being finalized, will be released for public comment this summer.

During the open forum that followed the presentations, the Board invited comment from the public. Members of the audience called attention to areas where accessibility needs to be further addressed, including websites, pedestrian signals, transition planning for public rights-of-ways, and outdoor developed areas. It was noted that consensus standards for classroom acoustics that were developed with support from the Access Board are now applied to new school construction in Minnesota. In addition, concerns were raised about the availability of information in braille in government offices and universities, access to paper currency for people with vision impairments, and accommodations in the workplace for employees who are deaf. Several advised that action is needed on accessibility for people with age-related disabilities, morbid obesity, and deaf-blindness.

Each year, the Access Board substitutes one of its bimonthly meetings in Washington, D.C. with a town hall meeting in a different city. Details on next year’s event will be released as they become available.