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Guidelines for trails on Federal lands were published in the Federal Register September 26, 2013. Guidelines for non-Federal sites covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will be developed separately through a subsequent rulemaking.

arrow American Trails hosted a Webinar on "Trails and the New Federal Accessibility Guidelines" which is available as an archived presentation

arrow Questions and Answers from the webinar on Architectural Barriers Act Accessibility Guidelines; Outdoor Developed Areas



U.S. Forest Service releases updated accessibility standards for recreation, trails

From the U.S. Forest Service

On September 26th the U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell released the agency’s 2013 Accessibility Guidebook on Outdoor Recreation and Trails that updates the agency’s direction on providing recreational opportunities accessible to everyone.

Tidwell also announced the release of the agency’s streamlined Outdoor Recreation Accessibility Guidelines and the Trail Accessibility Guidelines. Both sets of guidelines are available at These publications address how the agency provides accessible recreational opportunities as intended by the Architectural Barriers Act if 1968 and standards set by the U.S. Access Board.

Together, the publications provide Forest Service units guidance to maximize accessibility while protecting the unique characteristics of the natural setting of outdoor recreation areas and trails. The guidelines require all new or altered camping units, picnic areas, scenic overlooks, beaches, hiking trails and more to comply with this accessibility direction.

“Americans of all ages and abilities are welcome to enjoy the wide range of outdoor recreation opportunities on the national forests and grasslands across the U.S.,” Tidwell said. “By integrating accessibility into our facilities, visitors can choose the type of outdoor recreation they want to pursue and the setting where that type of recreation is allowed in a way that best works for the individual.”

The release of the publications coincides with the release new outdoor guidelines by the U.S. Access Board, an independent federal agency whose primary mission is accessibility for people with disabilities. The agency worked closely with the board on the development of the guidelines.

Identifying ways to improves access to parks, refuges and public lands is a component of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative. The largest majority of the people— about 56.7 million or 19 percent of the population— have a disability with more than half of them reporting the disability as severe, according to 2010 U.S. Census Bureau statistics. The Forest Service has more than 23,000 accessible recreation units, such as campsites and picnic areas, and 8,000 accessible recreation buildings.

“It is accessibility integrated into the outdoors without changing the setting or the outdoor experience,” said Janet Zeller, Forest Service National Accessibility Program Manager. “We don’t call them accessible trails, which make one think of flat and paved paths. Instead trails that comply with the accessibility guidelines look like other trails that blend into the setting, but with a sustainable firm, stable surface and, where the terrain allows, grades that provide easier passage”

Zeller said the trail work “well for everyone, whether you are pushing a baby stroller, using a wheelchair or cane, hiking with small children or helping someone walk. People recreate with family and friends, whether it’s a camping unit, a picnic area or short hike to a lovely view, integrating accessibility means we can all enjoy the great outdoors together.”

Visitors should contact the forest or grassland they plan to visit to learn more about the facilities or areas where the type of recreation experience they want to pursue is available in the setting that best matches the interests and abilities of all in their group.


HOW TO ORDER: Accessibility Guidebook on Outdoor Recreation and Trails

We have received many requests for how to order the U.S. Forest Service's (USFS) Accessibility Guidebook on Outdoor Recreation and Trails, which is posted on the USFS Accessibility website at

Ways to order black and white printed copies: 


arrowMore resources on Accessibility Guidelines for Outdoor Developed Areas

USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write to USDA, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Stop 9410, Washington, DC 20250-9410, or call toll-free at (866) 632-9992 (English) or (800) 877-8339 (TDD) or (866) 377-8642 (English Federal-relay) or (800) 845-6136 (Spanish Federal-relay). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

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