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 MTDC > MTDC Pubs >1223-2806P-MTDC; Accessibility Guidebook for Outdoor Recreation and Trails T&D Publications Header

Accessibility Guidebook for Outdoor Recreation and Trails


ABA—Architectural Barriers Act

ABAAS—Architectural Barriers Act Accessibility Standards

Access Board—Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board

ADA—Americans with Disabilities Act

ADASAD—Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design

ANSI—American National Standards Institute

ATV—All-terrain vehicle

BEIG—Built Environment Image Guide

CFR—Code of Federal Regulations

DOD—U.S. Department of Defense

FHWA—U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration

FSORAG—Forest Service Outdoor Recreation Accessibility Guidelines

FSTAG—Forest Service Trail Accessibility Guidelines

GSA—U.S. General Services Administration

HUD—U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

IBC—International Building Code

ISA—International Symbol of Accessibility

FTDS— Federal Trail Data Standards

MUTCD—Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices

OHV—Off-highway vehicle

ORAR—Outdoor Recreation Access Route

RHRIBS—Recreation and Heritage Resources Integrated Business Systems

ROS—Recreation Opportunity Spectrum

RRAC—Regional Recreation Accessibility Coordinator

RV—Recreational Vehicle


USDA—U.S. Department of Agriculture



Accessibility Evaluation Survey—An activity comparing each portion of a structure to the accessibility standards and recording compliance and deficiencies.

Accessible—A facility or other constructed feature that is in compliance with the accessibility guidelines that were in effect at the time it was built or altered.

Accessible Facilities—Facilities that comply with the accessibility guidelines.

Alteration of a Trail—A change in the purpose, intent, or function of the trail.

Alteration of a recreation site, building, or facility—A change to a portion of a recreation site, building, or facility that is addressed by the accessibility guidelines and that affects the usability of the site, building, or facility.

Beach Access Point—A site at which pedestrian access (such as dune crossings, stairways, walkways, or ramps leading from boardwalks or outdoor recreation access routes) to the beach or parking facilities are provided so that people can access the water.

Beach Nourishment—Sometimes called beach restoration or sand replenishment—a process by which sediment (usually sand) lost through longshore drift or erosion is replaced from sources outside of the eroding beach.

Camp Shelter—A small structure typically enclosed on three sides with a roof or overhang to provide campers and hikers cover from weather. Camp shelters do not contain plumbing fixtures, kitchen appliances, or other amenities usually found in transient facilities or residential dwelling units.

Conditions for an Exception—Specific circumstances found in natural environments that may make it difficult to comply with the accessibility guidelines.

Construction—The process of building a new trail, recreation site, or facility where there was none before.

Cross Slope—The percentage of rise to length when measuring the trail tread from edge to edge perpendicular to the direction of travel. In other words, cross slope is the difference in elevation from the inner edge to the outer edge of a trail, outdoor recreation access route, or beach access route. This may be expressed as the percentage of change in elevation or as a ratio of vertical distance to horizontal distance.

Disability—A medically definable condition that causes a limitation in one or more major life activities, such as walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, thinking, and so forth.

Federal Trail Data Standards—Standards that are published by the Federal Geographic Data Committee. They are a core set of standardized data attributes and corresponding definitions for tabular and spatial data that are applicable to all federally managed trails, including national scenic and national historic trails. These standards also are used by many other agencies and organizations.

Grab Bar—A bar attached to a wall to provide a handgrip for steadying oneself or to assist in transferring across short distances.

Grade—The difference in elevation of a section of an outdoor recreation access route, trail, or beach access route measured parallel to the predominant direction of travel. This may be expressed as the percentage of change in elevation (grade) or as a ratio of vertical distance to horizontal distance (running slope).

Guardrail—A railing designed to protect people from accidentally falling off an edge where the immediate dropoff is more than 30 inches.

Handrail—A narrow railing to be grasped with the hand for support.

Impracticable—In this guidebook, impracticable means work that cannot be completed within the limits of the applicable conditions for an exception.

Limiting Factor—An extreme, uncorrectable environmental barrier that makes the trail beyond the barrier unreachable for people with mobility limitations.

Maintenance—Routine or periodic repair of existing trails, recreation sites, or facilities. Maintenance doesn’t change the original purpose, intent, or function for which the facility was designed.

Pit Toilet—A primitive outhouse consisting of a toilet riser over a hole dug into the ground or receptacle to receive and naturally decompose human waste. Pit toilets are provided primarily for resource protection and only are constructed at recreation sites with a Recreation Site Development Scale level of 2 of less. A pit toilet riser may or may not be surrounded by walls and may or may not have a roof. A pit toilet may be permanently installed or may be moved from one location to another as the pit is filled or the area becomes severely impacted from use. Waste may be disposed of directly into the pit or may be composted.

Practicable—In this guidebook, practicable means work that can be completed within the limits of the applicable conditions for exceptions and results in a useful improvement for all. (See "Using the Conditions for an Exception in FSORAG" and "Conditions for an Exception in FSTAG" of this guidebook for more information.)

Program Accessibility—The principle of providing all people who meet the criteria, including people who have disabilities, the opportunity to participate in a program (an activity in which someone may participate or the reason someone visits an area).

Provision—A technical requirement.

Reconstruction—This word is not used in Federal accessibility guidelines or FSORAG and FSTAG, even though it is used frequently by people who work in recreation and trails. For the purposes of FSORAG and FSTAG, actions are categorized as construction, alteration, or maintenance.

Recreation Site—A discrete area on a national forest that provides recreation opportunities, receives use, and requires a management investment to operate and/or maintain to standard.

Recreation Site Development Scale—An area that is improved, developed, or otherwise identified for recreation and that has a development scale of 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5. (See Forest Service Manual Chapter 2330, exhibit 01.)

Running Slope—The ascent or descent of a trail segment expressed as a percentage of its length. In other words, the slope is the difference in elevation from the beginning to the end of a part of a trail, outdoor recreation access route, or beach access route, measured in the direction of travel. This may be expressed as the percentage of change in elevation (grade) or as a ratio of vertical distance to horizontal distance (running slope). The percentage (grade) is shown in parentheses in these accessibility guidelines.

Scoping—Specifications of where, when, and how much of constructed features detailed in the technical requirements must be met in order to be in compliance with the guidelines.

Setting—The term used to describe the natural surroundings of a trail or recreation area.

Slope Ratio—A ratio of vertical distance to horizontal distance or rise to run.

Surface—The top layer of ground on a recreation site, outdoor recreation access route, trail, or beach access route

  • Firm. A surface that resists deformation by indentations. During the planning process, firmness must be evaluated for noticeable distortion or compression during the seasons for which the surface is managed, under normally occurring weather conditions.

  • Stable. A surface that is not permanently affected by expected weather conditions and can sustain normal wear and tear from the expected use(s) of the area between planned maintenance.

Technical Requirements—Specific numbers, conditions, and measurements that are required to be achieved (percent that must comply, dimensions, reach ranges, grades, trail width, etc.).

Trail Class—The prescribed scale of development for a trail, representing its intended design and management standards. (See the Federal Trail Data Standards.)

Trail Designed Use—The managed use of a trail that requires the most demanding design, construction, and maintenance parameters and that, in conjunction with the applicable trail class, determines which design parameters will apply to a trail. There is only one designed use of a trail. (See the Federal Trail Data Standards.)

Trail Managed Use—Any mode of travel that is actively managed and appropriate for a specific trail or area, based on its design and management. There may be multiple managed uses of a trail. (See the Federal Trail Data Standards.)

Trailhead—A site designed and developed by the Forest Service or other Government agency, a trail association, trail maintaining club, or other cooperators to provide a staging area for trail use.

Tread—The portion of a trail, outdoor recreation access route, or beach access route where traffic moves (for pedestrian routes, this is the walking surface).

Transition Plan—A plan that identifies the changes needed to make a facility accessible and the timeline for completing the changes.

Universal Design—The principle that programs and facilities must be designed to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without separate or segregated access for people with disabilities.



Note: "fsweb" addresses are available only to Forest Service and U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management employees on the Forest Service internal network.

Title 7 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 15 is the 1994 U.S. Department of Agriculture implementation guideline for Section 504 that prescribes the requirements for ensuring access to programs.

Access Board

Accessibility Guidebook for Outfitters/Guides Operating on Public Lands

Accessibility Guidebook for Ski Areas Operating on Public Lands

Accessible Exterior Surfaces Technical Article

Accessible Gates for Trails and Roads

Accessible Handpump

ADAAG Accessibility Checklist for Buildings and Facilities

American Trails

Americans with Disabilities Act

Americans with Disabilities Act/Architectural Barriers Act Accessibility Guidelines

Architectural Barriers Act

Architectural Barriers Act Accessibility Standard

Backcountry Sanitation Manual

Beneficial Designs

Built Environment Image Guide

Designing Sidewalks and Trails for Access

Facilities Toolbox

Federal Highway Administration and Forest Service recreational trail publications and videos

Paper copies

Federal Trail Data Standards

Forest Service Exhibit Accessibility Checklist

Forest Service Recreation Opportunities

Forest Service National Trail Specifications

Forest Service Outdoor Recreation Accessibility Guidelines

Forest Service Trail Accessibility Guidelines

Forest Service Trail Design Parameters

International Building Code

Natural Resource Manager (formerly Infra, available only to Forest Service employees)

Public Rights-of-Way Accessibility Guidelines

Recreation and Heritage Resources Integrated Business Systems (formerly Meaningful Measures)

Recreation Opportunity Spectrum

Regional Recreation Accessibility Coordinators

Region/Station Facilities Program Leaders

Rehabilitation Act Section 504

Soil Stabilizers on Universally Accessible Trails and

Shared Use Path Accessibility Guidelines

Trail Construction and Maintenance Notebook

Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards Accessibility Checklist

Universal Design Forest Service Policy, Forest Service Manual Section 2330.5!..

Universal Trail Assessment Process

Wetland Trail Design and Construction and

Wilderness Access Decision Tool