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Campground Accessibility: Issues
Outdoor environments offer unique psychological, physiological and spiritual benefits to users. According to the National Survey on Recreation and the Environment (Teasley, et al., 1998), 78 percent of people polled in the United States actively pursue outdoor activities, with camping being identified as one of the most popular.
People with disabilities enjoy the same array of personal and social benefits from outdoor recreational pursuits as people without disabilities. With 19.7 percent of the population of the United States having a disability (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2001), it is imperative that facility managers and site planners meet the challenge of providing accessible outdoor facilities and activities without fundamentally altering the nature of the activity itself.
Camping offers a wide spectrum of benefits to the participant including a social experience with family and friends, escape from the stress of work and daily life through access to the natural environment, and a solitary experience where a person relies on their own abilities and knowledge to survive alone and without modern conveniences. The different types of camping opportunities available at a site should be evaluated relative to accessibility for people with different types of abilities and should foster independent use by a person with a disability.
Federal law, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Architectural Barriers Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, require facilities to be accessible to people with disabilities. When the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) were released in 1991, outdoor recreation environments were not specifically addressed. The United States Access Board is developing accessibility guidelines for various recreation environments, including Outdoor Developed Areas. Currently, the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for Accessibility Guidelines on Outdoor Developed Areas (June 2007) under the Architectural Barriers Act is the best available information and should be used as a reference when making a camping area accessible.
Accessibility Specifications by Camp Site Type
Recreational vehicle and trailer camping spaces are designed for use by motorized vehicles, including motor homes, fifth wheels and tent campers. As with all campsites, site planners and facility managers should consider the type of equipment used at the site and the spatial needs of users. For example, a RV/Trailer campsite is required to have a minimum width of 20 ft (NPRM-Outdoors T318.2.1), which represents the minimum space needed for an RV/Trailer camper who also uses a wheelchair. The 20-ft minimum was arrived at by considering the following dimensions:
The width of an RV is assumed at 9-ft based on current dimensions in the RV industry.
An access aisle on the driver’s side of the vehicle is to measure at a minimum of 3-ft, enabling a person using a wheel chair to access utilities located on the driver’s side of the vehicle.
The clear space on the passenger side of the vehicle is to have a minimum width of 8-ft. A wheel chair lift for a motorized vehicle generally requires an 8-ft wide level space to operate in full capacity.
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