Joint initiative aims to improve disability hiking access

TUCSON, Ariz. — The Amputee Coalition, CDC, South East Foot Trails Coalition and Georgia Appalachian Trail Club are teaming up to improve disability access to hiking trials across the United States.

Research presented at the Amputee Coalition National Conference, here, suggests that hiking trails typically provide subjective information, not related to individual abilities, or limited information, which does not include surface conditions or disability access points.

“We decided to really look at these trails, see what is out there and determine if there are any modifications needed,” Tip Ray, inclusive and accessible recreation consultant, said. “That is what’s going on right now.”

Using the Universal Trail Assessment Process (UTAP), the organizations are documenting important trail information such as length, width, cross slope, grade, features and facilities.

Through their efforts, users would have access to relevant trailhead signage and information through their smart devices, alerting them of any obstructions or barriers along the path.

Tip Ray

UTAP is suitable for any outdoor trail and can offer extended knowledge of the conditions, increased independence, safety and enjoyment, Ray said.

The team is currently working to identify trails that meet, or could be modified to meet, accessibility guidelines. They are also documenting empirical studies of the benefits of hiking trails to those with disabilities and presenting at annual conferences to interested organizations.

“It is not just about accessible trails,” Ray said. “It is about getting people out, getting people active, getting individuals with disabilities active. A lot of good can come out of this.”

The team is looking to develop outreach programs and train amputees to assess trails in their local areas. Interested parties should contact the Amputee Coalition. – by Shawn M. Carter


Ray T. Special project: improving disability access to hiking trails. Presented at: Amputee Coalition National Conference; July 23-25, 2015; Tucson, Ariz.

Disclosure: Ray reports no relevant financial disclosures.

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