National Park Accessibility

By Merritt, Jacob, Kelvin, and David, Phase I Scholars

Although many of America’s National Parks have accessibility features for those with disabilities, the main National Park Service website leaves it up to each park to share their own accessibility information and has a mix of information on which parks are accessible, leaving it up to each park’s discretion on whether to include this information.

The main website directs you to find relevant information concerning accessibility on the “Plan Your Visit” feature of each individual park’s website. Some of the national park pages did not provide this critical information, while others gave the information in helpful detail. For example, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee had a whole page on accessibility, including detailed information on how to access the visitors center and camp/picnic grounds and information on park-wide facilities, including parking permits, amphitheaters, auto tours, camping, horse camps, and trails. While the sites that include this level of detail are great, not having the ability to quickly search which National Parks are accessible by using the “Find a Park” feature on the main website adds an additional barrier for people with disabilities. Every park page should contain detailed information about accessibility to ensure equal rights and access.

We also learned about the “Access Passport” permit, which allows free entry into the park. In order to obtain this, go to a local ranger station and bring some form of ID along with diagnostic documentation from a physician. Any US citizen with a permanent disability may obtain one. For more information about the Access Pass, see About the Access Pass (in PDF) from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.