There are nearly 400 national parks across the United States (including the lower 48 states, Hawaii, Alaska, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, and Northern Mariana Islands) from the very famous like the Grand Canyon, Statue of Liberty / Ellis Island and Gettysburg to some lesser known but still stunning parks like the Badlands in N.Dakota, the Great Smokey Mountains in Tennessee, or the desolate but beautiful Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior. This week (April 21-29) is National Park week during which entry to any national park is free. To find a National Park go to: http://www.nps.gov/findapark/index.htm. To find more activities, and information on National Park Week as well as to share your photo’s and videos go to: http://www.nationalparks.org/national-park-week-2012.
But for people with a disability, park entry is always free with the Access Pass. The free lifetime Access Pass also may provide for a 50 percent discount on some amenity fees charged for “facilities and services such as camping, swimming, boat launching, and specialized interpretive services.” Although this pass does not usually cover or reduce recreation permit fees or fees charged by concessioners. The pass also covers entry into 2,000 recreation sites that are managed by five Federal agencies. You can get an Access Pass in person at a federal recreation site or through the mail using this application form. Applying through the mail will cost $10 for processing the application and you must prove the following by mail or in person:
- Proof of U.S. citizenship or residency in the United States.
- Documentation of permanent disability that severely limits one or more major life activity.
The documentation needs to prove a permanent disability by any of the following ways:
- Statement by a licensed physician
- Document issued by Federal agency such as Veteran’s Administration, Social Security Disability Income, or Supplemental Income
- Document issued by State agency such as vocational rehabilitation agency.
If applying my mail, any documents pertaining to your disability will be returned with your pass.
Since 2006, the National Park Service (NPS) has been working with the National Center on Accessibility (NCA) at Indiana University in a long-term cooperative agreement to provide technical assistance and continuing education services in making the parks and their programs as assessable as practically can be based on the park. The NPS has also initiated an Audio Visual Initiative for Visitors with Disabilities which funded upgrades to programs that were not captioned for those who are deaf and / or added assisted-listening devices for those with hearing loss. The goals of the initiatives have been to make the National Parks as accessible as possible and that people with disabilities can participate in the same programs, activities, and employment available to everyone else.
Please remember, National Parks vary greatly; some are underwater preserves, some in rough and desolate areas, so access can be limited by the features and terrain of the park itself. It is always best to call the park you plan on visiting and asking. The NPS maintains an excellent website dedicated to accessibility issues: National Parks: Accessible to Everyone which features information on accessible opportunities (detailed by region and park), trails, camping, picnic areas, as well as visually and hearing impaired features.
For more information and a full overview of the Access Pass see Frequently Asked Questions about the Interagency Access Pass on the National Parks website. There is also a lifetime $10 Senior Pass for U.S. Citizens 62 years-old and older, and information can be found by clicking on the previous link along with expanded information on this pass under Frequently Asked Questions about the Interagency Senior Pass.
Feel free to check out the Special Needs Trust Network Flikr site where I have uploaded pictures of my personal 2011 trip up Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). The Special Needs Trust Network is based in Colorado the fortunate home to thirteen national parks, and those of us living in the Denver / Boulder area are blessed to have RMNP practically right in our backyard.
Due to it’s elevation Trail Ridge Road is open only between late May and October barring any early or late season snow, and at the crest of the road is located the highest visitor center within the National Park Service. The road is officially U.S. Highway 34, also known as Trail Ridge Road/Beaver Meadow National Scenic Byway and is the highest continuous highway in the United States. For some dramatic pictures from 2011, a year in which Colorado and Rocky Mountain National Park had above record snow falls click here: http:www.nps/gov/romo/parknews/pr_trail_ridge_road_opening_delay_2011.htm
So get out and enjoy our National Parks no matter where you live or what your abilities are!
Rocky Mountain National Park Trail Ridge Road