Mass Audubon Accessible Trails Project

In 2010, Mass Audubon was awarded a $102,065 grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to add multi-sensory interpretive content on existing ADA-accessible nature trails at eight wildlife sanctuaries across the state. The goal of this project is to create a richer experience for visitors with a wide range of vision, hearing, and mobility levels.

Improvements to the eight trails include:

  • Audio tours
  • Brailled texts and tactile maps
  • Tour scripts and maps designed for high readability for visually impaired and sighted visitors
  • New orientation maps and information panels
  • Improved signage along trails
  • Rope/post guiding systems
  • Wider boardwalks

Phase 2: Manual, Evaluation, and Presentations

In 2014, we began the second phase of the Accessible Trails Project: evaluating the trails and preparing materials for sharing what we have learned with other organizations.

Guidelines Manual

One main objective is to produce a comprehensive guidelines manual for developing and sustaining an accessible interpreted trail. The publication, which is being created thanks to additional funding from Institute of Museum and Library Services, will feature best practices for trail design, including:

  • navigational guiding systems
  • interpretative stop markers
  • multi-sensory learning stations
  • tactile signage
  • trail interpretation in audio and multiple printed formats

The manual will also provide ideas for collaborative partnerships, developing and testing trail materials with volunteer expert users and resource professionals, and outreach.

Evaluation and Presentations

In order to assess the quality and functionality of our trails to better serve people and other organizations, we are taking a deeper look at our existing trails and sharing what we learned through presentations. Specifically we will:

  • Reflect on our continuous learning curve in inclusion and accessibility
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of our trail development process
  • Submit six articles to relevant publications
  • Evaluate the usage of the completed trails, the associated materials available to visitors, and our outreach and customer service
  • Conduct six live presentations at relevant conferences around New England
  • Create a media presentation (possibly a short film) about the project

We are able to do this next phase thanks to additional funding support from IMLS, and the continued collaborative support of Department of Conservation and Recreation's Universal Access Program, Perkins School, local resource agencies, donors, and many volunteers.

Wildlife sanctuaries with IMLS-sponsored multi-sensory interpretive trails:

Other multi-sensory interpretive trails: