National Accessibility Achievement Awards Recognize Accomplishment in an Area of Vital Concern to the National Park Service

Wheelchair ramp and handicapped parking space serving a commercial office building complex. People with disabilities want enhanced accessibility features in the national parks, too. Photo by Maksim via Wikipedia.

In 1999, the National Park Service began making National Accessibility Achievement Awards to recognize outstanding accomplishments in architectural design, program design, and sustained efforts to improve accessibility for persons with disabilities. A decade later, the National Accessibility Achievement Awards remain an important tool for promoting and publicizing improved accessibility in the national parks.

The Park Service presented its first four awards in FY 1999. Since then, the program has evolved to recognize a wider range of outstanding achievement in accessibility improvement. The award program now has a seven-category configuration that includes:

• Sustained Park Achievement
• Programmatic Achievement
• Accessibility Leadership
• Volunteer Service
• Accessible Design Achievement (Architectural)
• Accessible Design Achievement (Exhibits and Waysides)
• Accessible Website Achievement

The number of awards varies each year depending on the categories in which nominations are received and the number of outstanding candidates nominated. In addition to the category winners, the awards selection panel may designate nominees deserving “merit” or “special achievement” recognition.

More than 50 awards have been made to category winners since the program’s inception. Lists of the nominees and winners for years 2000 through 2007 can be accessed via this site.

If you peruse the 2000-2007 winners lists, you’ll notice that the awards panels have spread the awards around the system (repeat winners are scarce) and leaned heavily to parks in the cultural/historical “wing” of the Park System. I’m inclined to believe that latter bias exists not just because cultural/historical parks are far more numerous than nature-based ones, but also because they are more commonly situated in or close to cities (thus getting more day-trippers, and proportionately more people with disabilities), and are typically smaller (presumably making accessibility improvement projects more doable and more obviously beneficial).

The call for FY 2008 award nominations yielded 14 nominees in four categories:

1. Sustained Park Accessibility Achievement Award
Fort Vancouver National Historic Site
Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site

2. Programmatic Accessibility Achievement Award
Yosemite National Park - Deaf Services Program
Kenai Fjords National Park - A Video Podcast Series Using Closed Captioning to Improve Accessibility
Independence National Historical Park - Electronic Version of Accessibility Albums for Historic Buildings

3. Accessibility Leadership Achievement Award
Van Call, Maintenance Mechanic, Guadalupe Mountain National Park
Gary M. Robb, Executive Director (Retired), National Center on Accessibility, Indiana University
Yellowstone National Park - Accessibility Condition Asessments
Rocky Mountain National Park - Accessibility Condition Assessments

4. Volunteer Accessibility Achievement Award
None Submitted

5. Design Project Achievement Award (Architectural)
National Mall and Memorial Parks - Jefferson Memorial
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
San Juan National Historic Site
Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site - Access to Historic Store
Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park - Access to Campgrounds, Picnic Areas and Associated Parking

6. Design Project Achievement Award (Exhibits and Waysides)
None Submitted

7. Accessible Website Achievement Award
None Submitted

The NPS National Accessibility Achievement Awards Selection Panel will meet to review the nominations and select the FY 2008 winners. The five-member panel consists of professionals representing various areas of expertise in parks and recreation management and in accessibility for persons with disabilities.

The panel members vetting the current round of award nominations includes: Dave Park (Chair), Accessibility Management Program Manager, WASO; Sandy Weber, Interpretive Specialist, WASO; Maureen McCloskey, Director of Advocacy, Paralyzed Veterans of America; William Botten, Architect, United States Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board; and Cari Goetcheus, Historical Landscape Architect, Clemson University.

Good luck to all the nominees for this year’s National Accessibility Achievement Awards.