Enhancing National Parks for Visitors With Disabilities Through Customer-Experience-Based Decision Making
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This paper focuses on the process by which health and well-being benefits associated with immersive nature experiences are provided to the entirety of the federal tax-paying citizenry, with particular attention to people with disabilities. Other federal legislation since the NPS’s establishment also provides legal guarantee to equity of opportunity in specific categories of national park experiences. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 mandates that the benefits of a park program or activity are provided in such as way as to not deny them to individuals with disabilities (43 CFR Part 17.549). “Programming” can include natural experience programming, especially in parks where the key park elements are nature-based. This program accessibility is accompanied by a mandate for the design, construction, or alteration of built facilities to comply with official design standards for accessibility to ensure that they can be used by individuals with disabilities (UFAS, Section 3.5). This focus on equal access to people with disabilities matches the NPS’s current planning efforts designed to increase the accessibility of the parks.