July 29, 2003 --
Today, more recreation is becoming accessible, thanks to federal laws. Recently the U.S. Access Board, which bills itself as "a federal agency committed to accessible design (online at http://www.access-board.gov/) published new summaries of its guidelines to guide companies in designing accessibility of recreation facilities -- amusement rides, boating facilities,fishing piers and platforms, golf courses, miniature golf courses, sports facilities, and swimming pools, wading pools, and spas.
"Large swimming pools must have a minimum of two accessible means of entry," say the guideline summaries, "either a sloped entry into the water or a pool lift that is capable of being independently operated by a person with a disability." New amusement park rides "must provide at least one wheelchair space, or at least one ride seat designed for transfer, or a transfer device designed to transfer a person using a wheelchair from the load and unload area to a ride seat." "At least one accessible route [must] connect accessible buildings, facilities, elements and spaces" at fishing piers. The summaries are online at http://www.access-board.gov/recreation/guides/index.htm
It might be wise to plan vacations close to home. "Flying is supposed to be exciting and fun," writes Albany Times Union columnist Michael Volkman in his June 29 column. "For wheelchair users, the experience is filled with worry.
Despite laws and regulations, he writes, "planes are not built for wheelchair access. We cannot stay in our chairs when we board a plane. We have to transfer or be lifted into a 'straightback' -- a lightweight, narrow chair designed to fit in the aisle of a plane -- and then transfer into the seat on the plane. For people with specific seating needs, like me and plenty of others, this is an ordeal. We risk injury during these transfers, as do the people helping. . . . Airlines don't want to remove seats to make spaces for wheelchairs because they would lose revenue they could make from those seats," he writes. Read Volkman's column online.