Board Issues Final Guidelines for Federal Outdoor Recreation Sites

trailOn September 26th the Access Board issued new accessibility guidelines for outdoor areas developed by the federal government. The guidelines provide detailed specifications for accessible trails, picnic and camping areas, viewing areas, beach access routes and other components of outdoor developed areas when newly built or altered. They also provide exceptions for situations where terrain and other factors make compliance impracticable.

“The Board is eager to release these guidelines, which were long in the making, to explain how access to the great outdoors can be achieved,” states Access Board Chair Karen L. Braitmayer, FAIA. “The greatest challenge in developing these guidelines was balancing what’s needed for accessibility against what’s possible in natural environments with limited development.”

Requirements for trails, outdoor recreation access routes, and beach access routes address surface characteristics, width, and running and cross slopes. Exceptions are included for these and other provisions under certain conditions stipulated in the guidelines. Departures are allowed where compliance is not practicable because of terrain or prevailing construction practices. Exceptions are also recognized where compliance would conflict with mandates such as the Endangered Species Act and other laws or where it would fundamentally alter a site’s function or purpose.

The guidelines originate from recommendations prepared by an advisory panel chartered by the Board, the Outdoor Developed Areas Regulatory Negotiation Committee. They were made available for public comment twice and finalized according to the feedback received. The rule applies only to national parks and other federal sites, but the Board plans to follow-up with rulemaking to address non-federal sites under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) at a later date.

“The Board is moving ahead to issue the guidelines first for federal sites out of expediency,” explains Braitmayer. “In developing its guidelines, the Board must assess and aggregate their impacts. The Board was able to complete the necessary assessment on sites in the federal sector, but will require more time to analyze the impacts on the broader range of sites controlled by state and local governments covered by the ADA.”

The rule applies to federal agencies that develop outdoor areas for recreational purposes, including the National Park Service, the Forest Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau of Reclamation. The new requirements will become mandatory on November 25, 2013 as part of the Architectural Barriers Act Accessibility Standards, which apply to facilities that are built, altered, or leased with federal funds.

The Board will conduct a public webinar on the new rule on November 8 from 2:30 to 4:00 (ET). To register for this free webinar, visit

For further information on the rule, visit the Board’s website or contact Bill Botten at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., (202) 272-0014 (v), or (202) 272-0073 (TTY).


Advisory Committee on Rail Vehicles to Hold First Meeting 

trainThe Board's Rail Vehicles Access Advisory Committee will hold its first meeting November 13 - 14 in Washington, D.C. The Board organized this committee in May to assist the Board in reviewing and updating its Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Accessibility Guidelines for Transportation Vehicles. The committee will develop recommendations on updates to sections of the guidelines covering transportation vehicles that operate on fixed guideway systems, including rapid, light, commuter, intercity, and high speed rail.

The agenda for the meeting includes:

  • initial remarks and introduction of committee members
  • consideration of the committee's charter and operating procedures
  • discussion of administrative issues (including dates of future committee meetings and consideration of adding additional committee members)
  • discussion of issues for potential consideration by the committee.

Committee meetings are open to the public, and interested persons can attend and communicate their views on issues of interest during designated public comment periods on each day of the meeting. Organizations or persons not on the committee may also have the opportunity to participate in any subcommittees formed by the committee.

For further information, visit the Board's website or contact Paul Beatty at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., (202) 272-0012 (v), or (202) 272-0072 (TTY).

Rail Vehicles Access Advisory Committee Meeting
November 13 (10:00 - 5:00) and November 14 (9:00 - 3:00)
Access Board Conference Center
1331 F Street, NW, Suite 800
Washington, D.C.

Note: An assistive listening system, Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART), and sign language interpreters will be provided. Call-in information and a CART web streaming link will be posted on the Access Board’s Rail Vehicles Access Advisory Committee website page at For the comfort of all participants and to promote a fragrance-free environment, attendees are requested not to use perfume, cologne, or other fragrances.


Study Completed on Accessible Playground Surface Materials 

play surface at sliding boardResults from a recently completed study of accessible play surfaces reveal the importance of proper installation and regular maintenance. The project, which was conducted by the National Center on Accessibility (NCA) at Indiana University with funding from the Access Board, assessed the performance of different surfacing materials at 35 new playgrounds over a 3-year period. Surface materials tested include poured-in-place rubber, engineered wood fiber, rubber tiles, and hybrid surface systems.

“The findings from this project, one of the most comprehensive studies of playgrounds surfacing to date, clearly demonstrate that proper installation and maintenance are critical for accessibility,” states Jennifer Skulski, CPSI of the NCA, the study’s principal investigator.

The study revealed that within 12 months of installation, each type of surface material was found to have accessibility, safety, or maintenance issues. For example, poured-in-place rubber installed improperly at one site was not resilient enough to meet safety standards for impact attenuation, while surface tiles at another site had puncture holes, buckling and separating. Findings from the project indicate that:

  • loose fill engineered wood fiber had the greatest number of deficiencies, including excessive running slope, cross slope, and change in level, which became prevalent within a year of installation;
  • engineered wood fiber surfaces also scored lower on firmness and stability ratings than unitary surfaces, such as tile and poured-in-place rubber;
  • poured-in-place rubber, tiles and hybrid surface systems also exhibited deficiencies relating to excessive running and cross slopes, changes in level, and openings two to three years after installation; and
  • some surfaces with fewer accessibility deficiencies and higher firmness and stability ratings did not meet the safety standards for impact attenuation

These and other conclusions are discussed in a report on the project, “A Longitudinal Study of Playground Surfaces to Evaluate Accessibility,” which is available on NCA’s website.

The Board and NCA will conduct a free webinar on accessible play surfaces and the results of the study on November 7 from 2:30 – 4:00 (ET). Visit to register for the webinar.

For more information on the project, contact Jennifer Skulski, CPSI, Principal Investigator, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (812) 856-4422, or Peggy Greenwell of the Access Board at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., (202) 272-0017 (v), or (202) 272-0075 (TTY).


Upcoming Board Webinars

The next webinars in the Access Board's free monthly series will cover accessible play surfaces and new guidelines the Board issued for outdoor developed areas on federal sites. These webinars were originally planned for earlier this month but were rescheduled due to the government shutdown.

Webinar on Accessible Play Surfaces
November 7, 2:30 – 4:00 (ET)
In this session, Board staff and a representative from the National Center on Accessibility will present results from a recently completed study on playground surfaces, as noted above. (A webinar on accessible prescription drug labels previously scheduled for this date has been postponed.)

Webinar on Accessibility Guidelines for Outdoor Developed Areas
November 8, 2:30 – 4:00 (ET)
In this webinar, Board representatives will review scoping and technical requirements of the newly released guidelines for outdoor developed areas on federal sites.

For more information, including registration instructions, visit Questions for the webinars can be submitted in advance through this website. Archived copies of previous Board webinars are also available on the site.


November Board Meeting Cancelled

Due to impacts from the government shutdown, the Board has cancelled its November meeting. The next meeting of the Board will be held January 13 - 15, 2014.


Access Currents is a free newsletter issued by the Access Board every other month by mail and e-mail. Send questions or comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (800) 872-2253 ext. 0026 (voice) or (800) 993-2822 (TTY). Mailing address: 1331 F Street, N.W., Suite 1000; Washington, D.C. 20004-1111.