For the past year or so, I've been pushing a stroller around town. My son Isaac (almost one year old now) prefers strolling to sleep for his naps, so we walk around my West Seattle neighborhood at least twice a day. And right from the start, it opened my eyes to something I'd never noticed before: most of the sidewalk curbs don't have curbcuts, and three of my four neighborhood coffee shops are impossible to push a stroller into because of steps.
Accessibility is obviously something I have taken for granted, both in my own neighborhood and as a hiker in the backcountry. I don't have any disabilities, and can just hop on a trail and hike up a mountain--through talus slopes, across streams, and up crib steps. I'd never thought of such features as barriers before. But to many nature-lovers, they are barriers--to enjoying the wilderness, taking in the view from a summit, and spending time with their families in the outdoors.
Despite increasing opportunities, people with disabilities still face numerous hurdles to getting out on trails. The July/August issue of Washington Trails magazine has a really good feature on Accessible Trails, written by Editorial Intern Eleanor Pachaud. It explores the needs and expectations for backcountry accessibility, and reveals how providing rich opportunities for those with disabilities is a tricky balancing act for land management agencies. It highlights eight favorite and varied barrier-free hikes, from Rainy Lake in the North Cascades to Theler Wetlands on Hood Canal. And the article points to good resources for people seeking more recommendations and support on accessibility in the backcountry, including books, websites and organizations.