ADA Friendly hikes in simplest terms are hikes that comply with American Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations. In other words, hikes that are accessible to all people regardless of a person’s age or ability. Another name for them are Barrier Free Hikes. There are many reasons why these hikes are so important. Let's get into it!
Importance of Outdoors
The outdoors provide a multitude of wellness benefits. One wellness finding includes improved quality of rest and ease of falling asleep with increased time outdoors. It can help reduce stress by being removed from screens and intrusive stimuli. It encourages being physically active as well! The mental benefits from outdoors as well as the physical can really improve someone’s well being.
Getting outdoors can be difficult for certain people with disabilities however. Social barriers like low self-esteem and confidence and perceived limitations can make someone not feel comfortable getting outside. However, there are also physical barriers such as a poorly maintained trail, or lack of information about a trailds.
Common Disability Accommodations
Accommodations might be more simple than you think. Most of these accommodations already exist at national and state parks.
Provide information on visual and audio assistance for navigating the parks both during a guided trail and at trailheads.
Maintained trails for reduced chance of slippery conditions and less hazards.
This includes maintaining websites with proper information of the current state of the trails
Proper gear to include people depending on disability. This can include hiking and mountaineering gear that can lift someone to a location.
Improved signage for trailheads with surface, grad, width, and elevation of the trail.
Have a map marked with benches and rest areas.
Widen trail barriers to ensure a wheelchair can get through.
Viewpoints might have visual barriers created by fencing, making the barriers easier to see through for people at sitting height is extremely important.
Most of these accommodations can be provided by friends and family. However these can be provided by the community as well. The All Trails app for example has city parks, trails, and national parks listed on their app. There you can find history and information on trails including information on disability accommodations.The All Trails app shares mobility disability accessibility information for more than five thousand hiking trails in the United States.
Trail Information that Disabled People Need
If you are providing trail information on a website like All Trails, Trip Reports, or other platform and you want to help, here's a few pieces of information that can help not just a disabled individual but all trail goers.
What's it like to get there?
It’s best to include road conditions, including type of roadway and how curvy it is. It’s also good to mention accessible parking spots and amenities on site. Also, if there are any public transportation options inside the park or to get to a trail.
Trail design and conditions
When hiking you might note the type of slope and width of the trail. It doesn’t have to be exact but a rough estimate is helpful. What does the surface of the trail look like? Include common barriers and if it’s paved with gravel, mulch, etc. Note rest spots, slippery areas, and information on bridges, boardwalks and other changes in the trail.
Elevation is more than just total elevation. While this is helpful it is nice to include the length and grade of the elevation change in detail.
It is very important you specify what easy or hard means to you and give context to that. Are you an experienced hiker or disabled hiker?
Segments and trailheads
Detailed information of the segments and trailheads are important so someone can plan out their hike and if they will complete the full one or not.
Outdoor activities, including hiking, should be incorporated into day to day routines when possible. Getting outdoors allows people to slow down and reap several short and long term benefits. We hope that the above information gives you a better idea of how to help the disabled people in your community and what changes can be made in our parks and outdoors spaces.
However, when you come home it should be just as accessible. Rosarium Health is a one stop shop to improve safety within the home through modifications aimed at increasing accessibility. If you or a loved one is interested in home modifications, reach out!