Mass Audubon Develops Accessible Trails Manual for Organizations Nationwide
Michael P. O'Connor
LINCOLN, MA—Based on its years of experience in designing trails to engage people with disabilities, regional conservation leader Mass Audubon has been chosen to develop guidelines to assist like-minded organizations nationwide in building accessible pathways.
The federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) selected Mass Audubon to undertake its All Persons Trails Guidelines Project, and funded a detailed “how-to” manual and support materials. The guidelines project emerged from an ongoing Mass Audubon initiative—also made possible in part by IMLS—to develop “state of the technology” Sensory Trails at its sanctuaries across the state for visitors with a full range of functional abilities.
A chief goal of the project is to enable many more individuals, families, and groups to independently enjoy experiences along interpreted, accessible trails all over the country.
As design and overlay elements have evolved, “universal-access” trails now feature an array of improvements for visitors with sensory, motor, and other neurological challenges. Advances include development of routes and surfaces that are more wheelchair and walker friendly; signage that includes Braille text and other tactile information to describe specific points of ecological interest; and trail “tours” that can be experienced through cell phones and other smart devices.
Numerous conservation nonprofits as well as government agencies and private enterprises have already requested the guidelines, which will be available online at no cost.
“Mass Audubon has clearly made inclusion a central part of its mission. With its Sensory Trails, the conservation organization’s network of wildlife sanctuaries and nature centers has created a richer, more accessible experience for all visitors,” said Paula Gangopadhyay, IMLS Deputy Director of Museum Services. “We are delighted that, with IMLS funding, Mass Audubon is now sharing a set of tools and resources so its best practices can be adopted widely by other nature centers and museums.”
Mass Audubon President Gary Clayton thanked Ms. Gangopadhyay for the pivotal support of IMLS, “because strong collaborations are vital to the most successful initiatives, such as this one.
“The All Persons Trails guidelines further Mass Audubon’s commitment in encouraging people of all abilities to connect with the natural world,” Clayton said. “And this project underscores the importance of partnering with organizations nationwide seeking to develop and interpret trails that provide accessibility for everyone.”
Mass Audubon protects 36,500 acres of land throughout Massachusetts, saving birds and other wildlife, and making nature accessible to all. As Massachusetts’ largest nature conservation nonprofit, we welcome more than a half million visitors a year to our wildlife sanctuaries and 20 nature centers. From inspiring hilltop views to breathtaking coastal landscapes, serene woods, and working farms, we believe in protecting our state’s natural treasures for wildlife and for all people—a vision shared in 1896 by our founders, two extraordinary Boston women. Today, Mass Audubon is a nationally recognized environmental education leader, offering thousands of camp, school, and adult programs that get over 225,000 kids and adults outdoors every year. With more than 125,000 members and supporters, we advocate on Beacon Hill and beyond, and conduct conservation research to preserve the natural heritage of our beautiful state for today’s and future generations. We welcome you to explore a nearby sanctuary, find inspiration, and get involved. Learn how at massaudubon.org.