The National Center on Accessibility is nationally recognized as one of the premiere resource centers promoting inclusion of people with disabilities in parks, recreation, and public lands. Since the Center’s inception in 1992, NCA has conducted training, technical assistance, and research nationwide so that park and recreation practitioners have accessible, inclusive, and universally designed recreation opportunities for people with disabilities. From camping and trails to swimming pools and beaches to visitor centers and museums, the NCA has had an international impact in the movement to create inclusive settings and programs. The center’s extensive and wide-ranging portfolio includes agencies such as the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Access Board, the Smithsonian Museum, and the U.S. Department of Interior, along with other federal land management agencies and hundreds of organizations at the state and local level.
In January 2019, the NCA was joined with the Eppley Institute as an operating unit focusing on the same mission to enhance access, choice, and quality of natural, cultural, and recreational experiences for all people.
Accessibility on the Ground
Over the past four years, the NCA has been a primary partner in the Targeted Accessibility Improvement Program (TAIP), one of the largest accessibility-focused projects the NPS has ever conducted. In 2015, the NPS Accessibility Branch secured funds to create this process for park units, accessibility experts, and the disability community to collaborate on major accessibility improvements at a limited number of sites. The interdisciplinary TAIP teams, which include representatives from the NCA, facilitated activities in nine parks selected for TAIP across the country with a mix of cultural, historical, and natural resources.
Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park (KLGO)
- New boardwalks to previously inaccessible locations, and ramps and safety railings added to several existing boardwalks.
- Restroom and water fountain improvements.
- Accessible auditorium seating and addition of an assistive listening system.
Mammoth Cave National Park (MACA)
- One mile of accessible route on the Echo River Spring Trail featuring new wayside exhibits with tactile elements.
- New overlooks featuring tempered glass with unobstructed views.
- New accessible signage, picnic area, restrooms, and expanded parking.
Saratoga National Historical Park (SARA)
- Improved plans for physically accessible tour stops.
- Plans for new accessible waysides including numerous tactile maps and other tactile features.
- Plans for an audio described auto tour.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (SLBE)
- New accessible kayak launch and fishing pier.
- Plans for accessible exhibits at the campground ranger station.
- Plans for new tactile exhibits outside, a new tactile park-wide map inside the visitor center, and new accessible waysides throughout the park.
San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park (SAFR)
- A lift that transports visitors from the main deck to the shelter deck of the ship.
- Extensive plans for additional modifications onboard the ship.
- Plans for exhibits including numerous tactile maps, tactile models, and interactives along with video captioning and audio description for the entire experience.
Independence National Historical Park (INDE)
- Captioning and audio description of a new film of Congress Hall.
- New accessible interactive kiosk tours developed for the second floors of Congress Hall and Independence Hall.
- Audio description to complement ranger-guided tours of Congress Hall, Independence Hall, and Old City Hall.
Steamtown National Historic Park (STEA)
- New orientation map and 3-D model of the roundhouse for the visitor center.
- 3-D model of a “cutaway steam engine,” a tactile model of how a steam engine makes steam and an interactive piston exhibit.
- New video of how a steam engine makes steam with captioning and audio description.
Learn More: Steamtown exhibits improve accessibility
Thomas Jefferson Memorial (THJE)
- Equitable access to the portico via an accessible ramp that seamlessly fits with the iconic and inspiring architecture.
- Significant overhaul of the museum exhibits with the addition of numerous tactile elements including maps and models, audio description, and improved signage.
- Tactile wayside exhibits on the paths near the memorial.
Devils Tower National Monument (DETO)
- Near complete makeover of the primary visitor experience at the park.
- New exhibits in the visitor center, new orientation and wayfinding maps outside, and new waysides all around the tower trail.
- Reduced the maximum slope on the new route to the base of the tower to less than 8 percent, less than half the current slope.
As NCA and Eppley continue to merge operations, the synergy of these two long standing and highly regarded programs will continue to positively impact Indiana University.