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Accessibility Guidebook for Outdoor Recreation and Trails

Designing Access Into the Outdoor Environment

This chapter explains how to incorporate the Forest Service Outdoor Recreation Accessibility Guidelines (FSORAG) and Forest Service Trail Accessibility Guidelines (FSTAG) into the outdoor recreation environment.

Suppose you are assigned a project to reconstruct a picnic area or campground, or to design a trail. Based on information from the previous chapters, you know that you'll be using FSORAG and FSTAG rather than Architectural Barriers Act Accessibility Standards (ABAAS). As you read through the FSORAG and FSTAG, however, you may have questions about how to apply all the conditions for departure, provisions, and exceptions to the provisions of the guidelines. The purpose of this chapter is to explain how designers should apply the guidelines and to help them understand the rationale behind each of the provisions.


Some terms used in the FSTAG and FSORAG may not be familiar. The terms include:

The following terms describe construction and maintenance work:

While the FSORAG and FSTAG don't apply to maintenance, Forest Service policy is to improve accessibility wherever the opportunity arises. Where practicable and feasible, resource managers are encouraged to improve accessibility through maintenance and repair activities as explained in Maintenance Tip—Improving Accessibility Through Maintenance.

The term "reconstruction" isn't used in Federal accessibility guidelines or the FSORAG and FSTAG, even though it is frequently used in the recreation and trails communities. For the purposes of the FSORAG and FSTAG, actions are categorized as construction, alteration, or maintenance.

The Purpose of the FSORAG and FSTAG

The FSORAG and FSTAG provide guidance for maximizing accessibility while recognizing and protecting natural settings—sometimes this is a real balancing act! Some basic assumptions:

The FSORAG and FSTAG each include sections explaining when, where, and how much of the recreation area or trail is included (scoping), what has to comply with the guidelines, definitions of terms, and technical provisions defining the physical characteristics of accessible features such as width, height, slope, length, surface conditions, and so forth. The building blocks for accessible design are based mostly on wheelchair dimensions, clear space, maneuvering room, and reach ranges found in the ABAAS because the dimensions, multiple moving surface contact points, and wheels of a wheelchair are the most difficult to accommodate. If someone in a wheelchair can use an area, most other people can too.

Each section of the FSORAG is explained below in practical terms, followed by a similar explanation of the FSTAG.

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