In a landmark settlement between Disability Rights Advocates and the National Park Service, announced March 17, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area will undergo a series of changes making it more accessible to people with disabilities.
“This is the first class-action settlement improving access for the blind and people who use wheelchairs and walkers and such in a national park system, ever,” Stuart Seaborn, an attorney with Disability Rights Advocates, told the San Francisco Examiner. “We’re hoping to use that as a model for other systems, whether it’s national or state parks.”
The Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which attracts more than 13 million visitors per year, contains more than 75,000 acres stretching from northeast San Francisco to such famous destinations as Alcatraz and Muir Woods.
Under the terms of the settlement, the National Parks Service will create wheelchair accessible routes at a variety of Bay Area beach routes and trailheads. It will also create Braille, audio, and tactile orientation signs, guides, and route maps.
The settlement also includes extensive training requirements and requires the National Park Service to create a maintenance fund for future improvements.
Disability Rights Advocates filed the lawsuit in 2008 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. After negotiations broke down, a federal magistrate narrowed the lawsuit, but declined to dismiss the case, according to to the San Francisco Chronicle.
“GGNRA contains some of the world’s most beautiful and historically significant sites, said Larry Paradis, executive director of Disability Rights Advocates, in a news release. “People with disabilities for too long have been excluded from many of the experiences offered by national parks, experiences that many people cherish. These range from watching a sunset from an ocean-side beach, to visiting the redwoods, to walking a trail through wilderness, to visiting historic structures.”