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Accessibility Guidebook for Outdoor Recreation and Trails

All the Rest—Other Important Tools for Accessible Recreation

The following tools work together with the accessibility guidelines when accessible recreation facilities and programs are being developed and managed.

Built Environment Image Guide

The Built Environment Image Guide (BEIG) ( provides guidance for improving the image, esthetics, sustainability, and overall quality of the Forest Service's built environment. It emphasizes key elements to showcase the Forest Service's national identity and an image of quality and service. Within eight geographically defined architectural character types, designs project the overall Forest Service image while echoing local values, heritage, and culture. The BEIG's use will lead to an integrated approach to planning and design, including early collaboration among planners, designers, specialists, managers, and maintenance personnel.

Buildings and other constructed features will:

The BEIG specifically requires use of universal design principles and points out that if universal design principles are applied to a site or facility design from the outset, they seldom, if ever, have any obvious effect on architectural character. When the principles of universal design are skillfully executed, facilities fit seamlessly within the natural and social environments.

Recreation Opportunity Spectrum

Recreation Opportunity Spectrum (ROS) classifications provide guidance on the:

Photo of a man rock-climbing. The man is using two prosthetic legs.
Figure 17—This free climber appears to enjoy the
challenge, self-reliance, and independence
characteristic of semi-primitive and primitive
recreation opportunity spectrum settings.

The spectrum identifies characteristics of Urban, Rural, Roaded Natural, Semi-Primitive Motorized, Semi-Primitive Non-Motorized, and Primitive areas. Some units also include a Roaded Modified classification. Maps should be available at district or supervisor's offices showing the ROS classification for the Forest Service system lands administered by that unit. ROS classifications don't determine accessibility requirements, but should be taken into account when designing site improvements. For instance, improvements in primitive and semi-primitive settings may sometimes be needed for resource protection. In roaded natural, rural, and urban settings, improvements commonly are provided for visitor comfort and convenience. More information about the ROS is available to Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management employees at

Wilderness Access Decision Tool

Details and implementation guidance for applying Title V Section 507c, the one section of the Americans with Disabilities Act that applies to Federal agencies and to the programs and facilities on federally managed lands can be found at

This decision matrix is designed to assist Federal managers of wilderness areas in making appropriate, objective, and consistent decisions meeting the legal requirement to provide equal opportunity for all individuals, while ensuring there will be no fundamental change to the wilderness experience for all individuals, in accordance with the 1964 Wilderness Act.

Appalachian Trail Conservancy's Backcountry Sanitation Manual

This comprehensive manual explains the basic issues of remote area sanitation, including health, esthetics, and regulations, but it focuses on the construction and maintenance of moldering and composting toilets, and includes a case study and design plans. The Backcountry Sanitation Manual ( is a cooperative project of the Green Mountain Club and the Appalachian Trail Conference.

"Resolving problems of backcountry sanitation is a continuous challenge for trail clubs and land managers. This manual was created in the belief that all remote recreation areas will benefit from an expanded discussion of backcountry sanitation."
Pete Antos-Ketcham, Education Coordinator/Facilities Manager, Green Mountain Club

Accessibility Guidebook for Outfitters/Guides Operating on Public Lands

This guidebook provides a framework to help outfitters and guides who operate under a special-use permit from the Forest Service better serve all visitors (figure 18). The guidebook addresses basic facility accessibility issues, but focuses primarily on program and activity accessibility. Outfitters and guides who operate businesses on public lands are governed by the ADA because they are providing public accommodations and are also governed by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act because they are operating under special-use permits from Federal agencies. The guidebook identifies legal requirements and provides guidelines, suggestions, and practical tips for complying with both the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act while providing high-quality services. The guidebook is available at

Photo of a woman and a man holding up a stringer of fish. The man is using metal balance supports that attach to his forearm near the elbow.
Figure 18—Outfitters and guides provide the logistics
and support for visitors to enjoy a wide range of
opportunities on National Forests, including fishing.

Accessibility Guidebook for Ski Areas Operating on Public Lands

This guidebook provides a framework to help ski areas operating under special-use permits from the Forest Service better serve all visitors (figure 19). The guidebook addresses facility and program accessibility. Ski areas located on public lands are governed by the ADA because they are providing public accommodations and also are governed by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and related regulations, because they are operating under special-use permits from a Federal agency. The guidebook provides the legal mandates, suggestions, and practical tips for complying with laws and regulations, while providing high-quality services. The guidebook is available at

Photo of two people downhill skiing. One person is an instructor and is skiing backwards. The other person is wearing a vest that reads: BLIND.
Figure 19—Ski areas that operate on public land must
provide equal opportunity to their services.

Cooperative Publications

The Federal Highway Administration is cooperating with the Forest Service to provide Forest Service publications and videos to the public. Many publications are available at in HTML and PDF (Acrobat) formats. Paper copies can be ordered at

Standard Forest Service National Trail Specifications

Engineering Management Publication EM–7720–103, Standard Specifications for Construction and Maintenance of Trails, provides a uniform set of specifications for contracted trail work throughout the Forest Service. Although these specifications do not address accessibility, they can be used in conjunction with the FSTAG. The publication is available at

Trail Construction and Maintenance Notebook

The Missoula Technology and Development Center's Trail Construction and Maintenance Notebook contains basic trail construction and maintenance information, presented in an easy-to-understand fashion. It is available at or 2825P

Although this publication doesn't address accessibility, it is an important tool used during trail construction and planning. It can be used in conjunction with the FSTAG.

A new version of the Trail Construction and Maintenance Notebook will be printed during 2006.

Sidewalks and Trails

The Federal Highway Administration has published Designing Sidewalks and Trails for Access, a two-part report on pedestrian accessibility:

Equestrian Design Guidelines for Trails, Trailheads, and Campgrounds

A new guidebook for equestrian facility design is scheduled for completion in 2006. This comprehensive technical resource guide will detail those elements of planning, design, and construction that are specific to equestrian trails, trailheads, and campgrounds.

The Facilities Toolbox

The Facilities Toolbox is an interactive, internal Forest Service facility management Web site designed to help line officers and their staffs manage facilities effectively. The toolbox focuses on issues at administrative sites, but also contains topics such as Accessibility, Partnerships, Recreation Fee Program, Historic Facilities, and Water and Wastewater. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management employees can access this Web site on their internal computer networks at


Infra ( is the Forest Service corporate integrated data management tool developed for the purposes of inventory, asset management, and upward reporting of information concerning constructed features, including their associated financial data. Infra contains data on the accessibility status of constructed features and data on annual and deferred maintenance costs associated with accessibility requirements. The recreation site data entry forms have fields to enter information concerning the status of accessibility under the site costs tab and also under the features tab. These data must be updated annually.

Recreation & Heritage Resources Integrated Business Systems

The Meaningful Measures recreation resources management system has recently become the Recreation & Heritage Resources Integrated Business Systems ( This recreation resources management system identifies customer standards the Forest Service expects to provide across all recreation and heritage resources program areas. Standards form the baseline for estimating the total cost for quality visitor opportunities and services. Compliance with the accessibility guidelines (figure 20) is an important quality measure within the national standards for recreation sites under the responsiveness key measure. The Infra database houses recreation information including inventory, operation and maintenance costs, recreation-use data, and information on accessibility. The database is used to implement the Recreation & Heritage Resources Integrated Business Systems.

Photo of a man using a wheelchair beside a lake. He is looking through a tripod-mounted camera with a telephoto lens at a snow-covered mountain in the background.
Figure 20—The perfect photo spot—a spectacular view
and the right mix of resource protection,
site development, and accessibility.

Deferred Maintenance

Accessibility requirements must be met just as other building codes must be met. The costs for any needed accessibility improvements should be included in the Infra deferred maintenance figure. These costs are categorized as deferred maintenance because the work already should have been completed to comply with the ABA.

How and when the costs are included in the deferred maintenance figure depends on the transition plan for that facility. If transition plans have not been completed, the cost to complete them is included in the deferred maintenance figure because they were due for completion before the current fiscal year. The transition plan process (per 7 CFR 15e, section 150) is as follows:

When the transition plan is completed and approved, the costs to implement accessibility code improvements are included in the deferred maintenance figure. If the transition plan will take more than 1 year to complete, costs for actions scheduled for the current year are included in the deferred maintenance figure. Costs for actions that are past due also are included in the deferred maintenance figure. Costs for actions scheduled for future years aren't added to the current year's deferred maintenance figure. They are added to the deferred maintenance figure in the year they are scheduled for completion. As work is completed, it should be shown as an accomplishment in Infra for that fiscal year.

Construction and Maintenance Practices

Even the best universal design can be ruined, often unintentionally, by construction or maintenance practices that change accessible design features into barriers. Construction engineering and inspection personnel must have a thorough understanding of the design intent and of accessibility issues or they must check with the designer before allowing any deviations from the design. For example, field changes such as increasing the slope on a walkway to reduce the cost of asphalt paving or increasing the drop at an exterior door threshold to reduce issues with driving rain can make the entire project inaccessible.

Maintenance and operations activities can help or hinder accessibility. When maintenance personnel are being trained, include information on accessibility. When employees understand how their work can affect accessibility, they can look for ways to improve accessibility. For example, a chair or garbage receptacle beside the door of an accessible restroom stall will render the stall inaccessible if it prevents the door from opening fully. Picnic tables that are fastened to the floor of a picnic shelter to prevent theft but that aren't spaced far enough apart will be impossible for some people to use. When gravel walkway material is allowed to erode away from the entrance of a campground restroom, the restroom soon will become inaccessible.

Maintenance also can be an opportunity to improve accessibility. Over time, a series of small changes can make a big difference.

Illustration of a push type control button with an arrow pointing to the top.
Figure 21
Illustration of hands held under a sensory-operated faucet, with water pouring from the spout.
Figure 22
Illustration of a lever handle being pushed by a human hand formed as a fist.
Figure 23
Figures 21, 22, and 23-Examples of accessible operating controls.
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