Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) Accessibility Guidelines for Outdoor Developed Areas, Final Rule

by Dan Shaw

The ABA Accessibility Guidelines for Outdoor Developed Areas final rule went into effect on November 25. Anyone involved in outdoor accessibility issues in a federal setting will likely be affected by the final rule.

Changes in materials need careful consideration, (Juanita Beach Park, Kirkland, WA)

Changes in materials need careful consideration, (Juanita Beach Park, Kirkland, WA)

Several of us at the office recently participated in a webinar on these updates. The ABA Accessibility Guidelines provide technical requirements to ensure projects on federal lands (or built by federal agencies) are accessible to people with disabilities. In our day-to-day work we often choose to follow ABA standards (even on non-federal projects) because they provide effective, reasonable, and specific design guidelines for accessible outdoor facilities including trails, beach access, camping sites, etc.

ADA accessibility works with crushed surfaces but has its challenges. (Beebe Springs Natural Area, near Chelan, WA)

ADA accessibility works with crushed surfaces but has its challenges. (Beebe Springs Natural Area, near Chelan, WA)

ABA guidelines may also serve as the basis for ADA updates, potentially going into effect as early as Spring of 2014 depending on how negotiations go with rule-makers. We anticipate that even more municipalities will start to adopt ABA guidelines on a project-by-project basis.

An accessible viewpoint and bench (Beebe Springs Natural Area, near Chelan, WA)

An accessible viewpoint and bench (Beebe Springs Natural Area, near Chelan, WA)

The webinar format made it easy for us to learn about these updates- we simply gathered in our conference room and listened in, which made it possible for us to discuss what we were learning with each other and how these guidelines will shape future projects. 

A serpentine path often reduces the gradient, improving accessibility (Don Morse Park, Chelan)

A serpentine path often reduces the gradient, improving accessibility (Don Morse Park, Chelan, WA)

The new guidelines are a great way to enhance accessibility for all.

The full report is available at this link.  The ABA PowerPoint show may be found here.

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The Beauty in My Garden

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This is what it looks like when all is going and growing perfectly…

by Tanja Wilcox, Senior Associate, Landscape Architect

Creating, Nurturing, and Watching Things Grow

As landscape architects, we all come to our profession for a multitude of reasons, but one of the reasons that I am drawn to landscape architecture is due to a shear love of creating, nurturing and watching things grow.  At home I get to play this out in my own vegetable garden!  The miracle of tiny seeds planted in the cool and rainy days of spring that sprout up to create big heads of lettuce, giant Swiss chard, black dinosaur kale, and green bean stalks that curl and twine far above my head!  We go from having to run off to the grocery store for every bit of vegetable to frantically doing research on new ways to use the incredible bounty of produce springing forth in the back yard.

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Solving Challenges
Landscape architects enjoy a challenge, a chance to experiment and to problem solve…Being an urban farmer provides me with ample challenges, such as when my carefully tended 200 square foot garden plot is attacked by a prowling neighborhood cat eager to dig up my lettuce starts, or the pill bugs multiply madly and come up from their hiding spot along the garden borders to eat all my freshly sprouted peas (again!), or when the cabbage worms hide in plain sight as I wonder what could possibly have made my perfect kale leaves look so holy!  Armed with sets of new, bigger, lettuce starts, a slew of sticks, Sluggo, and gardening gloves, I go on the attack!  The sticks, planted firmly in amusing patterns give us something to look at while we wait for the lettuce to grow and simultaneously create a simple way to keep the naughty kitty at bay.  My be-gloved fingers go after and mercilessly squash the unsuspecting cabbage worms, and the Sluggo Plus sprinkled about, guards the delicate plants from pill bugs and slugs when I’m away. 

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As a landscape architect, I love natural beauty, especially when I’ve had a hand in shaping it.  There is beauty in the sunflowers that attract bumble bees, mason bees, honey bees and later nuthatches and chickadees.  There is beauty in the purple bean flowers and later, the long green bean pods tossed together with bright red cherry tomatoes.  Landscape architects enjoy being a small part of “the solution.”  I practice that at home by planting a garden and reducing the carbon footprint of our food.  By planting flowering plants we’re providing much-needed habitat for beleaguered butterflies, bees, and many other pollinators.  In the process, there’s a chance that our efforts will be contagious, infecting our friends and neighbors with the same bug!

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Salad Nicoise