Trail Access for Disabled People to Expand

Hiking with a wheelchair

Deborah Lisi-Baker starts her wheelchair up the View Trail at Camel's Hump in Duxbury, Vt. The Camel's Hump View Trail is part of a nationwide push in the past 20 years to make more of the great outdoors accessible to people with disabilities.

A new set of rules under the Americans with Disabilities Act goes into effect on March 15, 2011. These rules expand the ability of disabled people to use motorized devices on trails open to the public regardless of whether those trails are on public or private property, and apply to trails on state and local lands. The new rules will also apply to private trail management organizations like the ATC, and FLTC.

There is much yet to be resolved about the interpretation of the new rules. You can get a sense of the potential scope of the new rules by listening to the Webinar at AmericanTrails.org.

First, more info

any trail open to foot traffic must also allow wheelchairs to be used on the trails. Old trails don’t need to be modified. The new rule just prohibits trail managers from excluding wheelchair use.

A wheelchair is defined as a device designed to be used indoors and outdoors by a person with a disability. This definition excludes such things as ATF’s and snowmobiles, which are covered under the motorized device class.

Trail managers must also allow use of motorized devices by disabled people unless they can establish certain reasons to prohibit the use of motorized device class. The rules cite five factors, but those factors can be emasculated if the trail manager uses motorized devices for administrative purposes. In other words, if the trail manager uses atv’s and snowmobiles for administrative purposes, it might not be able to use any of the five factors to exclude people with disabilities from using such motorized devices.

More information can be found at the website for the AmericanTrails.org

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