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Picnic Tables – Equalizing Opportunities in Your Municipality

By admin - Last updated: Saturday, October 1, 2011 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

In 1990, Cottleville, MO was a small town with a Catholic Church, a small grocery store, farms and modest housing.  No one could have imagined the housing boom and fast growing economy the next decade would bring or the growing pains many expanding communities experienced.  To serve its citizens, Cottleville needed a new city hall and park to accommodate everyone, including its handicapped and disabled citizens.

ADA Approved Picnic TableMuch thought and deliberation went into the planning as recommendations by the National Center on Accessibility (NCA) were taken into consideration regarding the functional aspects of accessible picnic tables for its Legacy Park.  City administrators hoped to provide opportunities for a broader visitor base and were only able to achieve this through purchasing ADA compliant picnic tables installed on accessible sites.  Here are some of the NCA recommendations they considered:

  1. Picnic tables should allow for more than one wheelchair.  When multiple people in wheelchairs can sit at the same table they aren’t denied the choice of where they would like to sit.  Several picnic tables should be placed in the shade since people with paraplegia are unable to control their body temperature as they cannot sweat.  If the only available spot for a wheelchair is in the sun, this person may become overheated.
  2. While ADA compliant picnic tables reflect the minimum guidelines for an average size wheelchair, allowing for extra leg space and knee clearance will help to accommodate a wider range of people who use wheelchairs.
  3. The surface around a picnic table should be firm and stable and properly maintained.  Larger surface areas require less frequent maintenance and won’t effect accessibility requirements.
  4. Site maintenance is imperative when it comes to preserving accessibility.  Too often parks experience picnic table displacement because visitors move them to suit their needs, making them potentially inaccessible for future events.  Fixed tables are the solution to this problem.  An increased number of fixed accessible tables will prevent such displacement.
  5. Keeping the range of needs of individuals in mind is crucial to providing a service.  Many visitors may be photosensitive due to certain medications or impairments.  The more accessible sites in the shade, the better.  The health risks associated with sitting in the sun affect everyone, whether they are in a wheelchair or not.  Accessible sites in the shade help to prevent the risk of overheating, sunburns, or other heat-related illnesses.
  6. Nothing is more frustrating to a person in a wheelchair or mobile device than too few curb cuts.  Without curb cuts, people are forced to travel along the street which is both dangerous and inconvenient.  Frequent curb cuts allow a person in a wheelchair to enter the sidewalk from various locations and prevent extended travel.
  7. Identify the location of accessible sites with signs and maps.  Brochures, maps, and signs should be placed at the entrance to the park in an accessible location to prevent long searches for such sites, and along paths used to travel to accessible sites.  Signs should be posted in a manner that leads visitors to the site.  For visiting families who hope to spend an enjoyable day outdoors, driving around in search of accessible sites can be quite frustrating.

Accessible sites that are firm and stable, well marked with signs and easily identified with maps and brochures is the difference between a broad base of visitors picnicking at your park or someone else’s.  When properly planned, accessible picnic sites can occur with minimal stress on your city’s budget or staff.

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