Inclusion and Accessibility at Nature Sites: Environmental Education, Recreation and Beyond
Brown, Emily M.
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, College of Natural Resources
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One in five Americans has a disability and people with disabilities are the fastest growing subgroup in U.S. population. Despite the growing body of research in related fields, nature specific data are limited. The purpose of this research was to conduct a needs assessment of adults with disabilities and their advocates to assess perceived and/or experienced barriers to nature experiences and to gather recommendations for nature sites to be more accessible and inclusive. Data were collected using semi-structured focus group interviews. Researchers partnered with four area disability service providers who assisted in recruiting and coordinating the participation of the intended audience. These adults participated in regular outings and activities with the partner agency and represented a variety of disabilities and backgrounds. Results revealed transportation, mobility challenges, health concerns, and being highly dependent on others as common constraints. Not feeling welcome and not being reached by typical marketing efforts were additional barriers. Results indicated staff awareness/training, accurate information about accessibility, welcoming messaging, and reaching out to groups as recommendations. Participant feedback and recommendations can be used to improve physical, administrative and programmatic accessibility and inclusion at nature sites.