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The Access Board has posted for 60 days of Public Review their Draft Final Outdoor Areas Accessibility Guidelines for developed areas such as campgrounds, picnic areas, etc and also for trails.


arrow Read Comments by American Trails on Draft Final Accessibility Guidelines

arrowRead additional comments posted on the Guidelines at


Access Board response to concerns raised about the Draft Final Accessibility Guidelines


The Board responds below to some of the concerns raised about the Draft Final Accessibility Guidelines for Outdoor Developed Areas on the American Trails website.

Departing from the technical provisions on portion of a trail

An exception in the draft final guidelines permits a portion of a trail to depart from the technical provisions where the conditions listed below exist. The exception can be applied to any of the technical provisions. The condition that triggered the exception and the departure is to be documented in the trails project file.

The exception requires the portion of the trail to comply with the technical provision to the “maximum extent feasible.” This term is intended to permit the portion of trail to depart from a technical provision to the extent that the conditions prevent full compliance. Alternative dimensions are not specified for each technical provision because it may not be possible to achieve the alternative dimensions based on the conditions. For example, if a condition prevents a trail from complying with the 36 inch minimum clear tread width and a lesser dimension can be achieved, then the exception permits departure up to that dimension.

Exceptions to the technical provisions for trails are permitted where any of these conditions exist:

Compliance is not feasible due to terrain.
Compliance cannot be accomplished with the prevailing construction practices.
Compliance would fundamentally alter the function or purpose of the facility or the setting.
Compliance is precluded by the Endangered Species Act; National Environmental Policy Act; National Historic Preservation Act; Wilderness Act; or other Federal, State, or local law the purpose of which is to preserve threatened or endangered species; the environment; or archaeological, cultural, historical, or other significant natural features.

Exempting an entire trail from the guidelines

Where the conditions listed above would result in portions of a trail departing from the technical provisions, another exception permits the entity responsible for constructing or altering the trail to determine whether it would be impractical for the entire trail to comply with the guidelines based on:
How much of the trail would depart from the technical provisions; and
The extent to which portions of trail would depart from the technical provisions.
The exception allows the entity to use its expertise and professional judgment in making this determination. The determination will be site specific and based on the conditions that exist in the field.
The determination is to be documented in the trail project records and the Board is to be notified of the determination. A checklist or sample form will be developed with assistance from the accessibility program managers in the Federal land management agencies for notifying the Board. If the documentation prepared for the trail project records matches the checklist or sample form, that documentation can be used to notify the Board. If you have any recommendations for a checklist or sample form, include them with your comments on the draft final guidelines.
Federal agencies are encouraged to seek technical assistance from the Board when determining whether to exempt an entire trail. However, approval from the Board is not required.


The Board is committed to developing final guidelines that balance the unique qualities of the natural environment and the need for accessibility for persons with disabilities. We strive to ensure all our guidelines are reasonable and fair, and work diligently with stakeholders to understand and address concerns. The draft final guidelines represent over a decade of public input, debate, and deliberation. We look forward to continued work with the trail community on the implementation of the final guidelines.
We encourage you to contact the Board staff listed below if you have questions or concerns about the draft final guidelines.
Bill Botten – 202 272-0014 or
Peggy Greenwell – 202 272-0017 or

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