Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2012, the National Center on Accessibility promotes access and inclusion for people with disabilities in parks, recreation and tourism. 

NCA was established through a cooperative agreement between Indiana University and the National Park Service.  Over the last two decades, NCA has emerged as a leading authority on access issues unique to park and recreation programs and facilities.

Located on the Indiana University – Bloomington campus, NCA is a center within the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Studies in the School of Public Health.  NCA's success over the last 20 years can be attributed to support from the Indiana University administration, the National Park Service, and a vast network of individuals and agencies that have contributed to both an immense new knowledge base and utilized NCA services in one form or another.

At NCA, we believe that the principles of universal design and inclusion are important factors for achieving personal wellness and building healthy communities. Among people with disabilities, recreation and active leisure pursuits are vital for rehabilitation from illness or injury, prevention of disease, longevity and improved quality of life. NCA is a major contributor to the study of disability and inclusion in the life sciences. Through the comprehensive services of Research, Technical Assistance and Education, NCA focuses on universal design and practical accessibility solutions creating inclusive recreation opportunities for people of all abilities. NCA links the preferences and needs of people with disabilities to those of practitioners designing facilities and planning programs. Since 1992, thousands of professionals such as park superintendents, facility managers, architects and landscape architects, program coordinators, civil engineers, planners, interpreters and exhibit designers, accessibility coordinators, advocates and consumers have drawn on NCA as a valued resource; and as a result, they have been able to affect change within their parks, facilities and communities.

Research

NCA Research investigates the critical issues and challenges facing recreation professionals as they work to make their programs and facilities fully inclusive of people with disabilities. NCA Research is practitioner-based with end results focused on providing professionals with practical information to provide effective accessibility solutions. NCA Research shapes the development of policy and accessibility standards nationally. NCA has partnered with researchers from the universities of Minnesota, Utah, Georgia, Clemson and Tennessee to discover the needs and preferences of people with disabilities. NCA research includes consumer-based surveys on the needs and preferences of people with disabilities along with practitioner-based inquiry on accessibility management leading to best practices in the field. Initiatives have included:

Study of swimming pool operations and user preferences for accessing swimming pools for the U.S. Access Board resulting in the development of accessibility guidelines for pools;Best practices in accessibility to parks and recreation; Performance of assistive mobility devices and temporary surfaces for beach access; Analysis of major barriers associated with including people with disabilities in the game of golf; Determination of the effectiveness of surface treatments to create accessible trails; Comparison of the functional aspects of accessible picnic elements; Activity review of people with disabilities in the National Survey of Recreation and the Environment; Inquiry to visitor expectations and perceptions in outdoor developed areas; Analysis of reservation and accessibility use policies for campgrounds; and Assessment of ticket policies for performing arts venues and sports arenas.

Training

NCA Education programs are designed to engage practitioners in recreation access issues with instructors nationally recognized for their expertise and commitment to inclusive recreation environments for people with disabilities. Thousands of park and recreation professionals, architects, landscape architects, planners, interpreters, accessibility coordinators, administrators, advocates and consumers have not only participated in NCA Education programs, but as a result have been able to create change within their organizations and communities leading to a society more inclusive of people with disabilities. Interactive sessions include discussion of attitudes, characteristics and needs of people with disabilities, legislation, accessibility standards, program access and universal design. Open registration training courses are offered in various national locations and at Indiana University throughout the year. Asynchronous distance learning programs, realtime videoconferencing, satellite broadcasts, and webinars are also available. NCA can tailor training programs for agencies based on the needs and requests of the organization.

Technical Assistance

Do you have a question on access to parks and recreation for people with disabilities?

The NCA professional staff is nationally renowned for their expertise and personalized technical assistance on a broad range of issues related to compliance with disability legislation and accessibility standards. Drawing on a national network, NCA is able to respond to requests for information with the latest trends, the most current information on accessibility standards, rulemaking, program modifications, equipment, vendors, best practices and innovative solutions. You can talk to an Accessibility Specialist by calling NCA or e-mailing your question to nca@indiana.edu.

Consultation

NCA is available to provide consultation to your agency with the goal of improving access for visitors and participants with disabilities. Various levels of consultation are available based on your agency needs and desired outcomes, including:

  • On-site consultation
  • Facility walk-thrus
  • Facility accessibility assessments
  • Program assessments
  • Policy evaluation
  • Plan/drawing reviews
  • Concept development and planning

Contact NCA to customize a consultation plan for your agency.

NCA Clients & Partners

National Park Service

U.S. Access Board

U.S. Department of Justice

Smithsonian Institution

John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum and Annex

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

U.S.D.A. Forest Service

U.S. Bureau of Land Management

American Trails Training Program

NASA

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

W.K. Kellogg Foundation Access to Recreation Initiative

Indiana Department of Natural Resources

National Alliance for Accessible Golf

Arlington Heights (IL) Park District

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

Buffalo Grove (IL) Park District

Crystal Lake (IL) Park District

Carmel Clay (IN) Parks and Recreation

New York Department of Environmental Conservation

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Forest Preserve District of Will County (IL)