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Access America: an atlas and guide to the national parks for visitors with disabilities.

Access America: An Atlas and Guide to the National Parks for Visitors with Disabilities

Most maps and guidebooks of parks are just that -- one-dimensional catalogues of information designed to orient the reader to a particular outdoor space or feature. In stark contrast, Access America: An Atlas and Guide to the National Parks for Visitors with Disabilities, is the antithesis of the traditional guidebook.

Access America represents the most multi-dimensional attempt to make the parks not only accessible, but usable, to people who represent the full spectrum of human abilities. Because of the variety and depth of information provided, the prolific use of maps and other graphics, and the addition of a genuine human element (through the inclusion of a series of personal essays), the readers is taken on a multi-faceted journey.

Outdoor recreation experiences are among the best that life has to offer. Nothing seems to refresh me more than being outside in the natural environment. Although I enjoy a wide range of activities, the adventure of outdoor experiences always gives me a new perspective on my routines.

Unfortunately, the potential "adventure" can easily turn into frustration and exclusion. Many outdoor experiences are simply not as available to persons with disabilities as they are to nondisabled persons. Many times I, and others with disabilities, have set off to explore and enjoy a park only to be confronted by a myriad of barriers.

In some cases unavailability is compounded by the lack of reliable information. For example, I have telephoned sites or read guides that have labeled places "accessible", only to find when I arrived, that there were accessible parking spaces or an accessible toilet, but no way to enter the nature center or picnic area or campground, nothing available in large print, and no telecommunication devices for deaf persons.

The authors of Access America have demonstrated a remarkable awareness and understanding of the difficulties, both natural and man-made, faced by persons with disabilities. The final product is a testament to the rigorous process, including extensive surveys and site visits, employed to develop this book and the many years that went into its production.

It is often said that too many cooks can spoil the broth. In this case the use of nearly sixty consulting editors, many of whom are persons with disabilities, certainly enriched the broth. From my perspective, having been involved in many projects using editorial boards, I think having sixty advisors was a brave feat in itself!

Reading this book as both a person with a disability and as the Executive Director of the National Council on the Handicapped, it is my view that the contribution made by Access America is broad and far-reaching. Access America reinforces two major themes currently emerging from the disability movement -- independent living and equal opportunity. The essence of independent living involves people with disabilities making their own decisions and being involved in every aspect of life. Frequently, recreation choices have been ignored or given a low priority. Access America will enable persons with disabilities to make their own choices about which parks to visit and which experiences within those parks they select.

Evidence of equal opportunity is also apparent. Equal opportunity for persons with disabilities means having the same access to opportunities as non-disabled persons and not being discriminated against because of an individual's disability. By virtue of the fact that a book on accessibility exists to describe what is accessible and what is not accessible implies that opportunities are not equal.

However, movement toward equal opportunity has occurred. Fifteen years ago, the majority of accessible features described in Access America did not exist. The fact that progress has been made means that persons with disabilities have gained and are continuing to gain access to more opportunities.

I believe that all Americans, whether disabled or not, have the right to experience recreation and have access to recreation facilities and spaces. I commend the National Park Service for its initiatives to make the out-of-doors accessible to persons with disabilities.

I applaud the effort of Northern Cartographic, Inc. to create a resource that will greatly enhance the outdoor recreation experiences of persons with disabilities and their families and friends. The interest, curiosity, and commitment demonstrated by the authors are exemplary.

It was my pleasure for me to provide a foreword to such an historic document. My wish is that so much progress will be made each year that supplements will be needed to provide information about new and better accessible features.

Park visitors with disabilities must use this book not as the final step in their research and planning of a visit, but as a good first step -- a first step that leads to questions and follow-up at the level of the local park. If the atlas accompanies the visitor to the park, it should not be used as the exclusive source of accessibility information but as a basis of further inquiry to confirm, clarify and particularize every situation.

Changes occur and mistakes get made; there is no substitute for vigilance. Through correspondence, telephone calls and on-the-spot interrogation of National Park Service personnel, visitors must judge their own personal abilities in relation to each feature and offering of an individual park.
COPYRIGHT 1989 EP Global Communications, Inc.
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:excerpt
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Date:Mar 1, 1989
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