There’s a New National Park Service Website for Visitors with Disabilities or Special Needs

With 1.5 miles of mostly flat, paved or boardwalked trails, Muir Woods National Monument is one of America’s most accessible national parks. Photo by Lee Coursey via Flickr.

The National Park Service has launched a new website for visitors with disabilities or other special needs. Dubbed National Parks: Accessible to Everyone, this new website can help you find accessible trails, programs, and activities throughout the National Park System.

This new online tool remains a work in progress, but it’s up and running and ready to help you with your travel planning.

A trial spin through the website will show you that it is easy to navigate and presents highly relevant information in a clear and concise manner .Suppose you want to plan a visit to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee/North Carolina and you need information about trails accessibility. Go to the website, click on Trails, scroll down to Tennessee/North Carolina, then scroll to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and this is what you’ll find:

Most trails in the park are steep and rugged. However, an accessible trail made possible through a public-private partnership is located on Newfound Gap Road, just south of Sugarlands Visitor Center. Accessible interpretive exhibits along the .5-mile, paved trail describe unique historic and natural features as the trail winds through second growth forest along the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River. Clay tactile exhibits, a large print brochure, and porcelain enamel wayside exhibits are available on site. An audiotape tour is available from Sugarlands Visitor Center. Users should look for the tracks of a black bear that wandered across the freshly poured concrete when the trail was built.

[This website] contains information about the accessibility of some other trails and paths in the park.

Now, suppose that you’re planning a trip to Yosemite National Park and you want to know about programs, exhibits, and informational/educational opportunities for visitors with disabilities. Go to the website, click on Accessible Opportunities, scroll down to California, then scroll to Yosemite National Park, and this is what you’ll find:

For detailed information as of May 2006 about accessibility in Yosemite, please consult the park’s Accessibility Guide at . The guide provides information about the accessibility of campgrounds, lodging, transportation, visitor centers and museums, scenic regions of the park, and activities, such as ranger programs and trail rides. The guide serves visitors with impaired hearing, sight, and mobility and tells them where they can touch granite boulders and sequoia trees, where they can find transferable seating to boulders at wheelchair height, where they can take sit-ski lessons, and more.

In summer and during limited off-season hours, a National Park Service ranger may be available to provide American Sign Language interpretation for ranger programs. Please make individual or group reservations at least two weeks in advance. All requests are filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Inquire at visitor centers or phone (209)372-4726 (TTY). For ASL interpretation on paid tours, call the Yosemite Lodge at the Falls tour desk at (209)372-1240.

Ask at the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center about assisted-listening devices for ranger-led programs in Yosemite Valley.

The new website also has separate sections for Vistas, Visually Impaired Features, Hearing Impaired Features, Camping, and Picnic Areas.

If you’re interested in the essential NPS documents, online resources, accessibility awards, and related sources, you’ll want to visit this site.

Don’t forget to check the indexes of individual park websites for information that may not have made its way yet to the new consolidated website. And as always, it’s a good idea to phone the park before you go if you have questions or issues not resolved through these online sources.