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Accessibility Guidebook for Outdoor Recreation and Trails

Applying the Forest Service Outdoor Recreation Accessibility Guidelines (Continued)

Other Constructed Features (Continued)

Viewing Areas at Overlooks

Overlooks and viewing areas are designed and constructed to provide an unobstructed view of a vista or of a specific point of interest, such as the view of a mountain range, a valley, a waterfall, or a unique geologic formation (figure 76). Because overlooks and viewing areas are a destination point, they must be accessible so all visitors can enjoy the viewing opportunities. Each viewing area at an overlook is required to comply with the requirements explained below.

Photo of several people with and without disabilities, at a scenic overlook with mountainous vistas surrounding them.
Figure 76—The overlook on the San Juan Skyway scenic
byway in Colorado allows all visitors to enjoy the view.

When viewing areas are provided in recreation settings, they must be located along an ORAR that connects to the other major features at the area. Connection to an ORAR isn't required where viewing areas are provided in GFAs. If several viewing areas are provided, at least one unrestricted viewing opportunity for each distinct point of interest must be accessible.

An unrestricted viewing opportunity means a clear field of vision toward the vista or point of interest that extends from 32 to 51 inches (815 to 1,295 millimeters) above the floor or ground of the viewing area. Compliance with the requirements isn't mandatory where a condition for departure exists.

Viewing areas often are adjacent to hazardous dropoffs. Barriers such as walls, safety rails, or signs installed for safety reasons could block views. This doesn't mean that either accessibility or safety measures should be ignored! Designers need to consider different ways of providing for safety without blocking the view. For example, see-through panels or screened openings could be installed, or the designer may be able to build the overlook with a series of tiers or terraces (figure 77). The placement of interpretive signs may also help create a barrier to keep people back from the edge of the overlook without encroaching on the 32- to 51-inch (815- to 1,295-millimeter) clear field of vision (figure 78).

Illustration of a two-level scenic overlook on a hill above a large lake. Dimensions show that the upper viewing area is less than 30 inches (760 millimeters) higher than the lower viewing area. It also shows that the rail around the upper viewing area only has to be 32 inches (815 millimeters) high, while the rail around the lower viewing area must be at least 42 inches (1,065 millimeters) high.
Figure 77—This overlook has two levels so the railing
can be lower at the upper viewing area.

Illustration of interpretive signs with a mortared rock base that is located to provide a barrier between a viewing area and a dropoff.
Figure 78—Signs placed to create a barrier at an overlook.

Photo of a painted steel pipe guardrail around a viewing area. The view of boats on the water is clearly visible through the vertical rails.
Figure 79—This railing is safe, meets code requirements,
and provides a great view, even when you look through the rails.

Photo of a little girl standing on the middle rail of a guardrail and looking at the view of a big lake.
Figure 80—Caution: railings with horizontal rails
make an inviting ladder for small children.

At least one turning space at least 60 inches (1,525 millimeters) in diameter (figure 81) or "T" shaped with a minimum 60- by 36-inch (1,525- by 915-millimeter) "arm" and a minimum 36-inch- (915-millimeter-) wide by 24-inch- (610-millimeter-) long "base" (figure 82) must be provided at each accessible viewing area. This requirement is the same as ABAAS section 304.3. This space allows someone using a wheelchair or other assistive device to approach and move about the viewing area. The slope must not exceed 1:50 (2 percent) in any direction, but may be up to 1:33 (3 percent) in any direction where required for proper drainage. The surface should be firm and stable and of a material that is appropriate to the setting and level of development. Exemptions are allowed from slope or surface provisions where a condition for departure exists.

Illustration of a man using a wheelchair at a stone paved overlook. Low, rounded mountains are visible in the distance. A dimension shows the 60-inch (1,525 millimeter) turning space requirement.
Figure 81—The requirements for turning
space at a viewing area.

Illustration of two people looking at a waterfall from a "T"-shaped overlook surrounded by a steel pipe guardrail. Dimensions show the turning space requirements explained in the paragraph above.
Figure 82—The requirements for a "T" turning
space at a viewing area.

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