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 is the largest nature-based conservation organization in New England. Founded in 1896 by two women who fought for the protection of birds, Mass Audubon carries on their legacy by focusing on the greatest challenges facing the environment today: the loss of biodiversity, inequitable access to nature, and climate change. With the help of our 140,000 members and supporters, we protect wildlife, conserve and restore resilient land, advocate for impactful environmental policies, offer nationally recognized education programs for adults and children, and provide endless opportunities to experience the outdoors at our wildlife sanctuaries. Explore, find inspiration, and take action at www.massaudubon.org.