shop   |   eNews   |   find a trail Better Business Bureau Accredited Charity
Share this page:

When trails are accessible, they are open to and enjoyable for all. Above, the Simon Kenton Trail in Urbana, Ohio.


Accessible – A term used to describe a site, building, facility or trail that complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Accessibility Guidelines and can be approached, entered and used by people with disabilities.

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) – A federal law prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities. Requires public entities and public accommodations to provide accessible accommodations for people with disabilities.

Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) – Design guidelines for providing access to a range of indoor and outdoor settings by people with disabilities.

Barrier-Free Design – A trail design that promotes the elimination of physical barriers that reduce access by people with disabilities.

FHWA – Federal Highway Administration

UFAS – Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards

Universal Design – A design where few if any barriers exist to inhibit accessibility.

Trails Glossary and Acronyms


RTC Resources

Article from Rails to Trails magazine about Billy Quick, a disabled athlete whose ride in Face of America 2000 was sponsored by RTC

Ask Our Listserv: Learn about trail development from the experts! Join our listserv to be connected to over 1,000 trail managers, advocates, and builders across the country.

For more information, please contact the appropriate regional or national office.


Additional Resources

U.S. Forest Service: Accessibility Guidebook for Outdoor Recreation and Trails

FHWA: Designing Sidewalks and Trails for Access. Part I: Review of Existing Guidelines and Practices and Part II: Best Practices Design Guide

FHWA Accessibility Resource Library

Minnesota Department of Transportation Bikeway Facility Design Manual

Alta Planning + Design presentation at California State Trails and Greenway Conference: ADA Access on Paved Bikeways

National Trails Training Partnership: Accessible Trails Resources

Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation's Greenways and Trails Program: ADA Accessibility Guidelines

ADA Standards for Accessible Design

ADA Best Practices Toolkit for State and Local Governments Technical Assistance Program

United States Access Board

US Access Board report: Accessible Public Rights of Way: Planning and Designing for Alterations

The United States Access Board's Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS)

Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center (DBTAC)

Free E-Courses on Accessibility at Indiana University's Eppley Institute for Parks and Public Lands

Indiana University's National Center on Accessibility: Information on Trail Accessibility

National Center on Accessibility: Trails


Plan, Design, Build


Explore the latest resources on this topic:

Accessibility in RTC TrailBlog
Accessibility in the Library

Accessibility is an important part of trail development because it is key to ensuring that trails are available to all groups, including the young, elderly and disabled. Because trails are transportation and recreation facilities, accessibility is mandated by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), which requires certain design standards for facilities to be in compliance with the law. ADA compliance is important to keep in mind as a trail enters the design and construction phases. Many rail-trails are ADA-compliant; for an example see Ohio's Little Miami Scenic Trail.

New trails and those undergoing rehabilitation must be in compliance with ADA Standards for Accessible Design, which determine width, surface, slope and other factors. Federal and federally-funded facilities must also be in conformance with the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards.

Luckily, it's not difficult for most rail-trails to be ADA-compliant, and there are numerous resources to guide trail builders. As part of a presentation in 2007, Alta Planning+Design produced a short slideshow on ADA access for trails and greenways which offers a helpful introduction to the subject. FHWA has published "Designing Sidewalks and Trails for Access" (Part I and Part II), a useful guide to help navigate some of the details of ADA compliance. A good resource for more in-depth assistance is the Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center (DBTAC), a national network of 10 regional centers offering technical assistance on ADA issues. Finally, be sure to take a look at the "Additional Resources" box to the right for more sources of information.

Return to Toolbox >>

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
The Duke Ellington Building
2121 Ward Ct., NW
5th Floor
Washington, DC 20037