Visitors explore the trails, use the campgrounds, and enjoy America’s public lands every day. But for many Americans with disabilities, these outdoor spaces can be inaccessible. Recently, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations called a hearing on this subject.
One of the speakers at the hearing was Mike Passo, the executive director for American Trails. In the 20 years Passo has been involved in outdoor accessibility the government has made little progress on this issue.
At the hearing, Passo argued that providing specific information to visitors is a key part of accessibility. He advocates for providing trail details like maximum grade and cross slope, minimum width, surface stability, and more. He argues that people with disabilities could use this thorough information to decide what trails would work for them. Additionally, Passo suggested that the Americans with Disabilities Act be updated to include guidelines for trails and outdoors recreation spaces.
Though the Chair of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight seems interested in making public lands more accessible, saying, “As Chair of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight, the first hearing I held was about how we can strengthen accessibility on our public lands because Congress needs to hear the voices of Americans with disabilities when we make policy,” his statement did not make any promises. Advocates like Mike Passo will have their work cut out for them to push for concrete legislation in the future.