Acadia Study Shows Need for Improved Accessibility

Busy Thunder Hole in Acadia National Park

Busy Thunder Hole in Acadia National Park.

By Dick Broom, Mount Desert Islander

ACADIA NAT’L PARK — Don’t tell park visitors that a certain site or trail – such as Thunder Hole or the Ocean Path – is accessible to people with disabilities, says a report on Acadia’s accessibility.

Instead, the report recommends that Acadia update its website to “provide objective information about what visitors will encounter in various areas of the park so that they can make their own determinations regarding accessibility…based on their own abilities.”

The report details the findings of an accessibility assessment that was conducted over several days last June and September by a team of consultants with the National Center on Accessibility at Indiana University. The study was supported by Friends of Acadia with a grant from the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation.

The assessment team studied 28 sites in the park – from Bass Harbor Head Light and Blackwoods Campground to Wild Gardens of Acadia and Wildwood Stables – and made recommendations for improvements.

For example, at Thunder Hole, the team observed, “The current accessible viewing platform provides only a partial view of Thunder Hole, thus not creating an equal viewing opportunity. (It is) recommended to construct an additional accessible viewing platform that is lower and farther east from the current platform.”

For each of the 28 sites studied, the assessment team looked at accessibility related to parking, vehicle circulation, pedestrian circulation, restrooms, interpretation and education, and orientation, wayfinding and signage.

As for signage throughout Acadia, the assessment report said, “Routes…should be easy to navigate and labeled with signs, maps or models to make orientation easy for all visitors, including those with disabilities. Indicating the shortest route or the path with the easiest terrain is important to facilitating accessible use of the area. The visitor should be able to easily determine the best route to a desired location and know what to expect along the way.”

The assessment team acknowledged that Acadia has made and continues to make improvements in accessibility. However, their report said, “The park, while offering interim solutions and building long-term solutions, is still considered deficient with respect to accessibility…To ensure Acadia continues to meet the needs of visitors with disabilities, a system of ongoing evaluation of the park’s programs, services and activities should be developed and instituted.”

Stephanie Clement, conservation director at Friends of Acadia, told the Acadia Advisory Commission last week, “The park has already done amazing work in the field of accessibility…but we hope Acadia will become an even more accessible place for visitors to enjoy.

“As the park [officials] send out contracts for improvements to various sites, this report will enable them to ask what they need to include in those contracts to ensure accessibility,” Clement said.

Link to full article in Mount Desert Islander